After throwing the book at a defendant in a fatal hit-and-run wreck, a prosecutor said Friday that Jennifer Cowgill will not face a murder charge for killing a 51-year-old father of five while driving with alcohol and marijuana in her system.
Instead, Cowgill, 24, pleaded no contest to two felonies -- gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit and run -- for more than 15 years in prison.
The son of Irvin Tefertiller, whose motorcycle police said was hit by Cowgill's car last May, said the punishment fit the crime.
"This way, she can do her time and it doesn't have to haunt her," said 30-year-old Trampus Tefertiller. "Her memory will haunt her enough."
Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne said Cowgill's blood alcohol level -- 0.03 percent compared with the legal limit of 0.08 -- led to the decision to drop the stiffer charge. Cowgill would have faced 15 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
"Given the relatively low amount of alcohol, it made sense to make a nonlife deal," Mayne said.
Cowgill's case was rare, one of only three current DUI fatalities that were charged as murder in Stanislaus County.
A judge or jury would have had to believe Cow- gill knew her reckless behavior could produce fatal consequences. She had a prior conviction for misdemeanor drunken driving and was driving on a suspended license, according to court records.
Police say Cowgill was behind the wheel of a black Ford Explorer about 8:20 p.m. May 5 when she struck Tefertiller's motorcycle while turning left from El Vista Avenue onto Haddon Avenue and dragged it about 100 feet.
A witness gave chase as Cowgill removed her shoes and fled on foot. She later agreed to wait for authorities.
Judge John G. Whiteside is scheduled to sentence Cowgill on Feb. 22.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.