Crime

Waterford woman charged in death of man driving home from wedding

Lauren Cathcart is charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in connection with a fatal crash in May on the Oakdale/Waterford Highway north of Waterford, Calif.
Lauren Cathcart is charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in connection with a fatal crash in May on the Oakdale/Waterford Highway north of Waterford, Calif. Stanislaus County Sheriff's Dept.

Edgar Gonzalez, 20, and his girlfriend were driving home to Waterford from a wedding they’d attended in Oakdale the evening of May 4 when a vehicle traveling the opposite direction swerved into their lane, court documents said.

Gonzalez stepped on the brake but couldn’t avoid the Ford Explorer that was traveling between 71 and 81 mph when it crashed head-on with their Nissan Versa, the documents said.

Gonzalez was killed and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Maritza Nuno, suffered major injuries, including multiple broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and a lacerated liver.

The driver of Nissan, 23-year-old Lauren Cathcart, also a Waterford resident, had major injuries as well. She spent several months in the hospital but on Thursday was arrested on charges of felony vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

According to court documents, Cathcart had a blood alcohol content of 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal limit, and tested positive for marijuana.

She told the medic who was treating her that she’d been at a bar and was on her way to another when the crash occurred just before 10 p.m., according to court documents. Investigators found vomit and an empty Miller Genuine Draft beer in the front of the vehicle.

According to the CHP, Cathcart was driving north on the Oakdale-Waterford Highway, at least 16 mph over the posted speed limit of 55, when she veered onto the right shoulder north of Ellenwood Road.

She “then drastically turned to the left” and into the southbound lane, where she hit Gonzalez and Nuno’s Nissan head-on, according to court documents.

On Friday, Cathcart pleaded not guilty in Stanislaus Superior Court to the charges and denied enhancements and special allegations, including one for having a blood alcohol content higher than 0.15 percent.

Sheriff’s deputies brought Cathcart into the courtroom in a wheelchair.

Her mother, Cheryl Cathcart, who attended the hearing, said her daughter lost a leg as a result of the crash and suffered other severe injuries that kept her in the hospital until last month.

Cheryl Cathcart said she did not know details about the case but said her daughter is “very sorry.”

“She did not come out of this unscathed,” Cheryl Cathcart said. “She has to live with this. She is still healing.”

Judge Sonny Sandhu denied Lauren Cathcart’s request to reduce her bail from the scheduled amount of $185,000, he said, because of the circumstances of the case, including a high blood alcohol content.

She is scheduled to return to court Oct. 18 at 8:30 a.m.

Erin has been covering breaking news and crime at The Modesto Bee since 2010. She is a Humboldt State graduate and resides in Oakdale.
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