Regina Bennett, a Paso Robles woman charged with hitting and killing a man bicycling with his son last year, has pleaded no contest to a reduced set of charges - ones that will send her to state prison for 12 years instead of for life.
In court on Tuesday, Bennett's voice was so soft as she responded to Judge Christopher Money's questions that he had to ask her repeat herself several times. At one point, as the judge discussed the sentences attached the charges, Bennett appeared to sink under the weight of her emotions.
But her eyes were dry and she held her head upright when Money asked her how she wanted to plea. "No contest," she firmly said.
Bennett had been charged with second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and DUI with injury, along with other accusations. In court Tuesday, the prosecution withdrew the murder charge, and Bennett pleaded no contest to the rest.
In mid-August, Judge Money will sentence Bennett. Based on the charges, she faces a 12-year sentence.
It was last June at about 7:30 p.m. that Scott Snider, a 48-year-old father of six, was riding his bicycle along Creston Road with his then-14-year-old son.
Bennett was driving her 1987 Acura Integra home from a grocery store with her 18-year-old son Charlie Bennett. For a still-unknown reason, Bennett lost control the car as she neared the father and son. She over corrected, hit Snider, and the car rolled as left the road and crashed through a fence. Bennett was ejected and suffered minor injuries, including a concussion. Charlie, who also wasn't wearing a seatbelt, broke his arm.
Snider was killed. His son was uninjured.
In court, Bennett admitted to having two drinks before getting in the car. Blood tests showed she had a .11 alcohol level and had been taking methamphetamines.
With her current conviction, Bennett now has "two strikes," or two serious felonies, against her. It will also be her third time in prison: Since the 1990s, Bennett has pleaded no contest to four felonies related to drugs, conspiracy, and illegally acquiring food stamps, along with several drug misdemeanors.
- Abraham Hyatt