Hope runs out, woman is jailed

A Modesto housewife who was naked and in the midst of a mental health crisis when she caused a fatal car crash in November 2005 was taken into custody Monday to begin serving a 90-day sentence.

Danise McFadden hoped to avoid time behind bars by getting a spot in a work or home detention program, but the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department turned down her application and denied two appeals.

Her attorney then sought relief from the Superior Court, saying the mother of four is getting a disproportionately tough sentence because her case made headlines. Judge Ricardo Cór-dova would not change McFadden's sentence to community service or delay her surrender a fourth time.

"I am going to order that Ms. McFadden be remanded to the custody of the sheriff at this time," Córdova said.

A psychiatrist previously told the court that McFadden was suffering from the rapid onset of psychosis when she plowed her pickup into a truck that was stopped at Claus Road and Briggsmore Avenue at 3 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2005.

She was traveling 74 mph when she rear-ended Catalino Sanchez Astorga, 47, of Modesto. He died in the hospital three weeks later, leaving behind a wife, four children and two grandchildren.

A jury in March found McFadden guilty of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter but acquitted her of a felony charge.

McFadden's surrender date had been extended from July 16 to Aug. 13 to Aug. 27 to Monday as defense attorney Ruben Villalobos challenged her sentence, which will amount to 60 days as long as she follows jail rules because of credits inmates receive for good behavior and work.

Villalobos argued that other offenders who have been con- victed of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter have been able to serve their sentences on home detention.

Sheriff Adam Christianson, who took office in July 2006, said he set a new departmental policy regarding alternative detention programs in January, when he was faced with the case of Mick Vito Rubalcava.

Rubalcava, 24, tucked into his backpack a loaded gun, which went off accidentally, shooting and paralyzing a classmate at California Beauty College in Modesto. He wanted to serve his 270-day sentence on home detention and argued his case on a radio show.

The sheriff concluded that offenders whose crimes involve great bodily injury or death should not be allowed access to home detention programs.

In a recent interview, Christianson said his department must treat offenders equitably. As a result, the policy set for Rubalcava applies to McFadden and others like her in the future, even if they never intended to cause anyone harm.

McFadden's challenge to that policy remains on the table because Villalobos filed a writ on her behalf last week.

The judge said he will rule on the writ after the county counsel's office, which represents the Sheriff's Department, and the district attorney's office, which prosecuted McFadden, respond to Villalobos' arguments.

The judge said McFadden, who had never been in trouble with the law, must begin serving her sentence. Christianson said she is not likely to have much contact with other inmates because jailers must ensure her safety.

McFadden choked back tears as bailiffs led her from the courtroom.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.