MARTINEZ (CBS SF) – A Concord woman arrested last month for allegedly suffocating her boyfriend to death was sentenced to four years of probation and six months in jail Wednesday morning after pleading no contest to involuntary manslaughter in Contra Costa County Superior Court.
Dava Steen, 41, accepted the plea deal just two weeks after pleading not guilty to charges that she murdered her longtime boyfriend, 47-year-old Danny Ray Bennett, in the couple’s Concord home last November.
On Nov. 25, paramedics arrived at the home in the 3600 block of Wren Avenue after Steen called to report that Bennett had stopped breathing, police said.
Bennett was pronounced dead after emergency responders attempted unsuccessfully to save his life.
Steen told police that Bennett had a history of health problems, including a seizure disorder, and investigators ruled the death was from natural causes.
But the coroner’s office never determined the cause of death, and a witness told police Steen suffocated Bennett during an argument on Nov. 25, leading to her arrest in late January, according to Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky, Steen’s attorney.
Lipetzky said her client told a friend that she “may have suffocated” her boyfriend during a fight, but the attorney declined to comment on whether Steen has admitted to causing his death.
“I actually believe Ms. Steen would have been cleared of all of the charges if we had gone to trial, but she felt strongly she wanted to take responsibility for whatever part she may have had in causing Danny’s death, and she wants to move forward with her life,” Lipetzky said.
Deputy district attorneys who prosecuted the case could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Lipetzky said Bennett had a history of abusive confrontations with Steen in addition to major health issues.
He even checked into an emergency room to receive treatment hours before he and Steen fought on Nov. 25, the attorney said.
When he died, Bennett was found to have a high blood alcohol content, and a coroner’s autopsy found that he had an enlarged heart, she said.
The Concord man’s remains were cremated, making it even tougher to determine how he died, Lipetzky said.
“Nobody can really know what caused his death,” she said.
Contra Costa County presiding Judge Garrett Grant Wednesday morning ordered Steen to complete a 12-week counseling program for domestic violence victims and a 12-week alcohol rehabilitation outpatient program as part of her sentence.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)