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Gridley Herald

DUI Driver Pleads Guilty in Deadly Highway 99 Collision

Jan 03, 2024 12:16PM ● By Butte County DA News Release

BUTTE COUNTY, CA (MPG) - In a surprise early plea, a 26-year-old single mother tearfully pleaded guilty on December 27 in Butte Superior Court to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for a head-on collision on the Highway 99 freeway in Chico less than two weeks prior.  

Shelby Alvarez, 26, of Chico, pleaded guilty as charged at her first court appearance with her public defender, admitting that on December 16, 2023, at approximately 11:00 p.m., she drove with a 0.25% blood alcohol content, while texting on her cell phone, the wrong way on Highway 99 near Highway 32 in Chico. Her 2009 Subaru Outback sedan crashed head-on into a northbound 2007 Chevrolet Corvette driven by Octavio Alcaraz-Jimenez, 21, of Maxwell.   

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said California Highway Patrol officers who responded to the crash scene found Alvarez had been traveling southbound in the northbound section of the freeway, when her Subaru hit the front of Alcaraz-Jimenez’s Corvette, riding over the front of his car, ejecting him out of his car, and killing him at the scene. The Subaru was found on its side, but Alvarez suffered only minor seatbelt injuries and lacerations. Alvarez said she was texting on her phone at the time of the collision and did not see the oncoming car.  

Ramsey said Alcaraz-Jimenez had been working building carports to support his mother and father in Maxwell.  He chose to forego school to earn money to support his family, paying for car and home insurance, and groceries.

 During questioning on the night of the crash, Alvarez told officers she had been drinking at a family Christmas party when she left to go home. She told officers she knew of the dangers of driving under the influence, as she had a tattoo in memory of one of her high school friends who was killed by a drunk driver.  

Ramsey said, “It is exceedingly rare for a person to accept full responsibility for their wrongdoing without any deal and throw themselves on the mercy of the court at such an early stage of the proceeding.” 

In court today, Alvarez’s public defender requested Judge Cory Caraway allow the own-recognizance release of his client to an alcohol rehabilitation program, pending sentencing, noting her lack of any prior criminal history and her acceptance of responsibility for her actions.  Prosecutors objected to Alvarez’s release, noting her high blood alcohol content and her personal knowledge of how deadly and dangerous it was to combine drinking and driving. Judge Caraway denied the defense’s request for release citing public safety concerns and remanded Alvarez back to Butte County Jail where she has been since the crash on a no-bail hold.  

Sentencing is set for January 31, 2024, at 9:30 a.m. Alvarez, who is eligible for probation, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.