Walla Walla woman pleads guilty to vehicular assault in wreck

Desirea C. Casey ran a stop sign and crashed into a tractor-trailer, injuring two passengers in March.

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WALLA WALLA -- A woman accused of causing a two-vehicle wreck in March that injured her two passengers pleaded guilty Monday in Superior Court to one of the felony charges filed against her.

Desirea C. Casey, 22, of 213 W. Maple St., entered the guilty plea to one count of vehicular assault.

She admitted driving in a reckless manner with disregard for the safety of others when the collision with a tractor-trailer occurred on U.S. Highway 12 at Hussey Road.

Casey faces a standard-range jail term of three to nine months when she's sentenced later. The prosecution is recommending a six-month sentence, but won't object to her serving the time on the Department of Corrections work crew.

The defense will ask for three months on the work crew. A second count of vehicular assault will be dismissed in exchange for her guilty plea.

Officials said Casey -- who had been drinking beer -- was driving a 2003 Honda Accord north on Hussey about 12:04 a.m. March 14, traveling approximately 70 mph in the 30-mph zone.

She failed to stop for the stop sign at the highway, tried to turn right to head east, but turned wide into the westbound lane, according to authorities. There, the vehicle collided with the oncoming 1996 Freightliner truck driven by David S. Irwin, 51, of Rocklin, Calif.

Casey's blood-alcohol level reportedly was 0.16, twice the legal limit.

Both of Casey's passengers -- Cortny A. Ponticelli, 21, of Milton-Freewater, and Heather L. Mercado, 19, of Walla Walla -- suffered multiple injuries. Ponticelli was hospitalized at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Mercado was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital in Spokane for treatment of "severe facial fractures including damage to the socket of her left eye" causing double vision, according to a State Patrol report filed in court.

Casey was treated and released at St. Mary.

Her guilty plea Monday related to injuries suffered by Ponticelli.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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