A Tucson woman who told jurors last week she accidentally struck and killed a 45-year-old bicyclist while reaching for hand sanitizer was convicted Monday of negligent homicide and two counts of aggravated driving under the influence.
Jurors had been asked to convict Melissa Arrington of manslaughter, but they could not reach a unanimous verdict on that more-serious charge. When sentenced Jan. 22, Arrington could receive from four years up to 11.75 years in prison, said Deputy Pima County Attorney Jonathan Mosher.
Paul L'Ecuyer, 45, was riding his Schwinn in the middle of a 5-foot-wide bike lane about 8:40 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2006, when Arrington swerved off the road, struck him and then continued for 800 feet before stopping, according to official reports.
A blood test taken 2 1/2 hours after the collision showed Arrington, who was driving on a suspended license for a prior DUI, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.156 percent — nearly double the minimum DUI level. A witness to the crash testified Arrington swerved off the road twice before the collision.
Mosher told jurors during opening statements that Arrington should be convicted of manslaughter because she showed recklessness by not only driving drunk, but also by driving drunk six months after attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving event designed to show the results of such behavior.
Assistant county public defenders Matthew Messmer and Michael Rosenbluth contended the crash was simply a tragic accident.
Arrington testified Wednesday that she had three drinks at Berky's, 5769 E. Speedway, but felt "completely fine" when she got into her pickup truck to drive home.
Arrington said she was traveling between 45 and 50 mph when she decided to wash her hands.
"I had reached over to get the hand sanitizer, and all of a sudden my windshield caved in," Arrington said.
She didn't slam on her brakes because she knew there was traffic behind her, Arrington said.
Thinking she'd struck a large animal, Arrington said, she got out of the truck and walked down the shoulder of the road looking for it.
It was only when she got back to her truck that she saw L'Ecuyer in the bed of her truck, Arrington said.
Arrington testified that she tried to resuscitate L'Ecuyer despite knowing it was too late.