Woman pleads guilty to vehicular homicide | VailDaily.com

Woman pleads guilty to vehicular homicide

Steve Lynn
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyCandace Calvin

EAGLE ” A local woman pleaded guilty Thursday to driving drunk in a February crash that killed a 23-year-old man who was riding with her.

Candace E. Calvin, 23, pleaded guilty Thursday to vehicular homicide, a felony, and faces up to eight years in prison.

Matthew Lopez, of Wheat Ridge, died in the crash at William J. Post Boulevard and Highway 6 roundabout Feb. 22 after police had chased Calvin.

Lopez was a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School, where he played tennis. He got his associate’s degree from Community College of Denver and was on the dean’s list for good grades, said Lopez’s mother, Diana Lopez.

He moved to the Vail Valley to snowboard and had lived in Avon for six weeks before his death, she said.

After Thursday’s court hearing, Diana Lopez held a picture of her grinning son as a 4-year-old holding a teddy bear and wearing a blue turtleneck.

“To not have him here has just been huge,” she said. “It’s just been an ongoing nightmare.”

“It’s something you can get used to, but cannot get over,” said Lopez’s father, Martin Lopez.

Wearing a black jacket and pants, Calvin quietly answered questions from District Court Judge Frederick Gannett about her guilty plea.

Prosecutors made a deal with Calvin in which she could get out of the plea if a judge sentences her to more than eight years in prison. Calvin’s other charges “two felonies, two misdemeanors and several traffic violations, including a charge for eluding police ” will be dropped in exchange for the plea.

“Eight years is nothing,” Diana Lopez said. “She’s really been given a break and I hope she understands that.”

Matthew Lopez’s mother and father agreed with the eight-year cap, Assistant District Attorney Karen Romeo said. Vehicular homicide while driving under the influence normally carries a prison sentence of four to 12 years and a fine of $3,000 to $750,000.

Romeo said Calvin may not have been sentenced to more than “eight to 10” years in prison if she were convicted at trial.

Lopez’s parents also wanted Calvin to realize her mistake and wanted to give her a chance to live her life outside prison, Romeo said.

“They just wanted to make a difference,” she said.

Colorado State troopers said they tried to stop Calvin, who was speeding and weaving in a Honda Accord while headed west on Interstate 70 near Dowd Junction Feb. 22.

After exiting the highway, Calvin reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour on Highway 6 before hitting a raised median barrier, striking a light pole, then rolling through the island of the roundabout, authorities said.

Lopez was wearing a seat belt and Calvin was not, the State Patrol said. Calvin’s blood alcohol content was more than double the legal limit of .08, according to an arrest warrant.

The fatal crash was the second time Calvin had been caught driving while her license was suspended, but an arrest affidavit does not say why she lost her license.

Calvin declined comment for this story and her public defender, Brian Bradford, did not return a telephone message requesting comment.

Calvin has given several speeches to students at Battle Mountain High School since the crash.

“I had made a bad choice in life,” Calvin told students in June. “Unfortunately, I was not the only one who suffered through my bad decision.”

Calvin is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 11.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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