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Director of Merced nonprofit held in DUI, hit-and-run crash

Diana Almanza, executive director of A Woman's Place in Merced, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and-or alcohol and a hit-and-run crash -- the same charges that put her in jail less than a week ago, according to Merced County booking records.

Almanza, 44, was arrested in the 300 block of Pluim Drive, a neighborhood off Gerard Avenue, and booked into the Merced County Jail at 12:59 a.m. Saturday. She was released at 5:30 a.m.

Merced police Lt. Andre Matthews said the department wouldn't offer any details or comment on the arrest until a commander could review the report and issue a press release.

"It is a topic of interest," he explained. "We want to make sure any information we put out there is accurate."

The police report still was being compiled by the investigating officer as of Saturday afternoon.

Almanza did not return repeated phone calls for comment, though Tom Pfeiff, a board member speaking as a friend of Almanza, said the family will decide what she should do professionally and personally.

"Obviously, she has a problem," he said. "(The family is) not sure what the next step will be."

Pfeiff also is a lawyer for Almanza and the center, though he said he's not representing her in this matter.

A Woman's Place is a non- profit organization that provides a wide range of services to local victims of domestic violence and rape.

Susie Bubenchik, the center's spokeswoman, declined to comment, adding that a statement will be issued today after the board meets with its lawyers.

Almanza's first arrest for misdemeanor DUI and hit-and-run driving occurred early Sept. 23. In that incident, she was arrested in the Rancho San Miguel Market parking lot on Yosemite Park Way. Officers said she showed signs of intoxication and admitted to taking Vicodin earlier in the day.

Field sobriety and breath tests showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.06 and 0.07. A person is considered intoxicated with a reading of 0.08.

Monday, Almanza said she had made a serious error in judgment and that she had "no excuse whatsoever."

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