Obdulia Sanchez, the 18-year-old Stockton woman who gained national notoriety for live-streaming a crash that killed her sister, will stand trial on charges of manslaughter and drunken driving.
Judge Paul C. Lo on Wednesday said there was enough evidence for the case to move forward in Merced County Superior Court.
Sanchez will be arraigned Oct. 4, on five felony charges including gross vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. She has pleaded not guilty. Sanchez's bail review will also take the same day.
The charges stem from a July 21 crash in the area of Henry Miller Road north of Los Banos. According to police reports, Sanchez was driving her 14-year-old sister and her sister's 15-year-old girlfriend when Sanchez lost control of the car.
The car overturned off the road, killing her sister, Jacqueline Sanchez, and injuring the other passenger, Manuela Ceja.
Sanchez was reportedly video streaming the moments before, during and after the crash. The video was played during a preliminary hearing Sept. 14.
In two 911 calls that were played in court earlier this month, Sanchez connects with a dispatcher and says, “Can you come pick up my sister, she is (expletive) dead. Man, I just crashed and I was DUI. Can you please come pick us up?”
Two dispatchers are heard trying to ask Sanchez where she is. Eventually, Sanchez said, “Yes, please come over here. I’m in the middle of (expletive) Los Banos.”
Her attorney, Merced County Deputy Public Defender Ramnik Samrao, said Lo’s ruling was expected.
Samroa questioned the handling of key blood evidence in the case, says there were “chain of custody” issues leading him to doubt whether investigators tested “the wrong blood” for evidence of drunken driving.
Throughout the course of the preliminary hearing, Samrao poked at the procedures police and Los Banos Memorial Hospital staff followed to obtain Sanchez's blood to test for alcohol.
Officials said those test showed Sanchez’s blood-alcohol level was measured .101, above the legal limit.
Samrao said prosecutors executed another search warrant for a blood sample last week to make sure the tested samples were Sanchez's blood. He added that he was glad about the Merced County District Attorney's Office taking the issue seriously.
Samrao said the additional charges don't change the case much, and it “doesn't change the facts.”
Thomas Min, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, told reporters he couldn't comment on whether he thought the blood was handled properly.
Sanchez greeted her parents with a bright smile as she entered the courtroom. But that smile faded as Wednesday's hearing went on. Sanchez has expressed many emotions during her court appearances in the months since the crash. Her attorney said the public shouldn’t try to read into her facial expressions.
“No one will ever walk in her shoes,” Samrao said.
The attorney also said Sanchez was trafficked and experienced sexual abuse as a minor before being put under foster care. Under foster care, Samrao said Sanchez was receiving counseling and treatment, including medication. But around the time of the crash, she wasn’t taking any medication.
“I know that she’s starting to receive some of her medication again now in the jail,” Samrao said. “But she still doesn’t have access to the treatment she had before.”
Sanchez remains in custody at the Merced County Jail.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562