Former Marine sentenced to 17 years for DUI crash that killed two UCSD medical students

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A 24-year-old former Marine was sentenced to 17 years in state prison Friday for driving the wrong way on state Route 163 in Mission Valley while drunk, causing a head-on collision that killed two UCSD medical students and seriously injured three of their classmates in the other car.

Jason Riley King was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the May 16, 2015 deaths of 23-year-old Madison Cornwell and 24-year-old Anne Li Baldock.

On May 16, 2015, after getting kicked out of a country western bar, King told a female Marine friend who asked for his keys, “I got myself here, I’ll get myself home.”

The victims had just left a party in Hillcrest to celebrate the completion of their second year in medical school when Cornwell’s Prius was hit head-on by King’s raised Ford F350 truck about 1:30 a.m. on northbound state Route 163 near Interstate 8.

An expert testified that King’s blood-alcohol content was between .15 and .20 percent at the time of driving, according to the prosecutor.

Eight days before the fatal crash, a police officer at an on-base “stand-down” told King and hundreds of other Marines that if they drank and drove and hurt or killed someone, they could go to jail, the prosecutor said.

When asked by CHP officers why he drank and got behind the wheel, King “remembered people telling him not to drive” and did it “because I was ignorant,” Bright told the jury.

In January 2018, King was acquitted of murder but was convicted of a DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

“This was a case that was 100 percent preventable,” Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said after the verdicts in January. “We lost two women who were in med school — were very bright lights — (and) three others were badly injured. The impact of one person’s decisions to decide to drink and drive — drink in excess and drive — basically changed the lives of five separate families, as well as the defendant’s own family.”

King’s attorney, Rich Hutton, said the jury got it right by acquitting the defendant of murder.

During the trial, Hutton conceded that King caused the wrong-way accident that killed the victims and injured their friends, leaving one in a coma for some time after the accident. Another victim is struggling to resume his studies in medical school. But he argued that his client was guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI, not murder.

“The whole issue in this case was, was it a murder or not?” Hutton said. “We firmly believed it never was, and that’s what the jury determined today.”

Hutton told jurors that what they learned about drinking and driving during the two weeks of trial was much more than King learned from the military.

In her closing argument, Bright said King was warned not to drink and drive but chose to do it anyway, acting with a conscious disregard for human life.

Categories: Traffic & Accidents