SANTA ROSA (BCN) – A San Mateo County woman was sentenced to a year in Sonoma County Jail and five years’ probation Wednesday morning for burglarizing the home of a Sonoma family who had died in a vehicle crash two days earlier.
Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Arthur Wick also ordered the woman, 30-year-old Amber True, to perform 60 hours of volunteer service.
True and her co-defendant, Michael Gutierrez, 27, entered and vandalized the Fryer Creek Drive home of the Maloney family and stole household items and the family’s 2006 Nissan 350Z on Nov. 30.
John and Susan Maloney and their two young children were killed on Nov. 28 when their 2004 Nissan Quest SUV collided with a 2009 Mini Cooper on state Highway 37 at Lakeville Road in unincorporated Sonoma County.
The driver of the Mini Cooper, Steven Culbertson, 19, of Lakeport, died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Nov. 30.
Both True and Gutierrez have insisted they did not know the homeowners were deceased.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has argued that the defendants must have noticed a memorial with candles and flowers on the front porch of the house and more than a dozen flower bouquets inside the home.
The defendants said they didn’t see the porch memorial because they entered through a dog door on the side of the house.
“We’ll never know if they knew the residents had died. They will take that to their graves,” Deputy District Attorney Michael Li told the court Wednesday morning. “It’s highly unlikely and improbable they wouldn’t know something was amiss. This wasn’t a foreclosed home. This was a lived-in house.”
Li also argued during court proceedings that a San Mateo resident familiar with real estate listings had informed Gutierrez the house was unoccupied.
Li had asked Wick to sentence True to a six-year prison term. Gutierrez was sentenced to eight years in prison in October. Both defendants pleaded no contest in July to first-degree burglary, vehicle theft and vandalism.
Attorney Steve Weiss had asked Wick to impose probation only.
Wick said a state prison sentence would jeopardize True’s continuing recovery from her drug addiction. He said state prison would not be in her or society’s best interests, and that True has been remorseful about the burglary.
“I can’t penalize this defendant for what happened out on Highway 37,” the judge said.