visalia – The Exeter woman accused of killing a child and her grandmother while allegedly driving drunk was released from custody a second time last week.
Cheyenne Wyllie, 25, of Exeter was released from the Adult PreTrial Facility at 2:30 p.m. on April 22 after posting bail of about $60,000. Wyllie’s bail was set at $750,000 by Judge Brett Alldredge during a bail hearing on April 20 at the Tulare County Superior Court in Visalia. The judge cited state law and the Tulare County Bail Schedule as the formula used to calculate bail.
Wyllie is charged with two counts of vehicular second degree murder, one count of driving under the influence of alcohol with three special allegations of causing great bodily injury, and one count of driving with a blood alcohol level of at least .08 causing injury, also with three special allegations of causing great bodily injury. While there is no bail schedule for second degree murder in California, bail for vehicular homicide is set at $100,000 in Tulare County. The judge did impose conditions on the bail prohibiting Wyllie from drinking any alcohol, operating a motor vehicle of any kind, leaving the county and requiring her to wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet and to submit to random drug testing.
The judge made his bail ruling despite arguments from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office and a plea from the Charlotte Espinoza, whose family members were killed in the DUI crash, to deny Wyllie bail and arguments from Wyllie’s attorney that it was set too high.
The crash happened just after 10 p.m. on March 26 at the intersection of Avenue 200 and Spacer Drive south of Tulare. Wyllie failed to stop her 2013 Ford Edge at the stop sign and struck a 2012 Honda Pilot being driven by Charlotte’s husband George Espinosa, Jr. Charlotte’s daughter, 10-year-old Jamie Espinosa, was transported to Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) where she later succumbed to her injuries. George’s mother, 69-year-old Angelita Espinosa, was pronounced dead at the scene. George remains in ICU on life support at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The 42-year-old wife and mother herself was taken to TRMC suffering from minor injuries and was released the next day.
Wyllie was originally arrested for DUI and possibly vehicular manslaughter charges following the crash. Wyllie was allowed to post $100,000 bail on March 28 because the California Highway Patrol (CHP) had yet to file a report with the District Attorney’s Office. Wyllie was arrested again on April 8 on a warrant for murder. On April 11, she was arraigned at the Tulare County Pretrial Facility where the judge denied her bail and scheduled the bail hearing.
Wyllie’s attorney, Richard Rumery, claimed the charges of second degree vehicular murder were not legal because his client had not signed a Watson admonishment. In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled in The People v. Watson, that a prior DUI conviction suggests implied malice, which is the legal basis for charging someone with homicide instead of manslaughter.
Following the ruling, courts now can require those convicted of a DUI offense to sign a form called a “Watson Admonishment” which reads as follows: “I understand that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs my ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If I continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of my driving, someone is killed, I can be charged with murder.”
Dan Underwood, chief deputy district attorney, said a Watson Admonishment is not required to prosecute a vehicular homicide case. He also confirmed that Wyllie does not have any prior DUI convictions but could not say whether she was previously arrested for DUI. “Any prior DUI activities that could potentially exist are confidential records at this point.”
Underwood did confirm that there are text messages to Wyllie from friends with warnings to not drink and drive, which could be used as evidence to show implied malice. Rumery contends that there is no proof that the phone that received those messages belongs to Wyllie.
Wyllie’s next date in court will be a preliminary hearing setting at 8:30 a.m. on May 23 in Department 4 of the Tulare County Superior Court. Once a date is set, the preliminary hearing will be the first time prosecutors will present evidence against Wyllie in court. Underwood said Wyllie faces 30 years to life in prison if she is convicted on both counts of vehicular homicide.