ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRESS RELEASE
Case # 12CF1907
Date: July 15, 2016
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A drunken driver was sentenced today to 22 years to life in state prison for murdering a 6-year-old girl and severely injuring the child’s sister and mother by crashing into them in a crosswalk after driving through a red light. Jessicah Louise Cowan, 37, Lake Hughes, was found guilty by a jury on April 15, 2016, of one felony count each of murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, hit and run with permanent injury or death, hit and run with injury, two felony counts of driving under the influence causing bodily injury, two felony counts of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more causing bodily injury, and an infraction for possession of marijuana while driving. Allegations and sentencing enhancements for causing bodily injury to Eloisa M. and Grisea M., having a blood alcohol content of .20 percent or more, fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter, and causing great bodily injury were found true.
At approximately 11:00 a.m. on June 23, 2012, Cowan drove erratically in Santa Ana while under the influence of alcohol. She drove on 17th Street and ran through a red light before losing control and crashing into the center median. Cowan continued on 17th Street and drove through another red light at Spurgeon Street. Three victims, including 6-year-old Osmara Meza, her 7-year-old sister Gresia, and her mother Eloisa, were holding hands and legally walking through a crosswalk on a green light with a walk sign.
Cowan crashed into the three victims when she ran the red light, throwing them from the intersection into the street. The defendant then attempted to flee the scene in her a car. A witness used their own car to block the road to prevent Cowan from fleeing.
The Santa Ana Police Department responded to the scene and arrested Cowan. At the time of her arrest, the defendant was found to have marijuana in her vehicle.
Osmara was pronounced dead at the scene. Gresia and Eloisa were transported to the hospital to be treated for traumatic brain injuries.
Murder may be charged in cases of implied malice, where the defendant intentionally commits an act that is dangerous to human life, knowing it is dangerous to human life, and acts with conscious disregard for human life.
At Cowan’s sentencing today, members of the victims’ family delivered emotional impact statements to the court pursuant to Marsy’s Law. Osmara and Gresia’s father stated in part, “It is very difficult to move forward in our lives because we are not the family we used to be. We no longer enjoy anything and we don’t go out anymore.” He continued on to say, “There is nothing that can be done to bring Osmara back. Since then my life changed so much and I miss my daughter Osmara so much and I also miss the family that I still have because they are no longer the same. I wish that day that I would have never gone to work so I could have taken my daughters and my wife to breakfast in my car.”
Victim Eloisa, mother of Osmara and Gresia stated in part, “Thanks to God I was able to open my eyes and here I am, but I am not the same person anymore, I carry a different life now. There are a lot of things I used to do that I cannot do anymore such as driving or working. I feel like I leave my family behind because I spend a lot of time sleeping and in pain.” She continued on to state, “Before, I used to say that if she was in or out of jail it didn’t matter to me because my daughter was gone, but now after hearing everything the witnesses have said I never want her to come out of jail and I don’t want her to hurt anybody else. I wouldn’t want her to hurt another family the way she hurt us.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff