Crime

She drove drunk in Merced crash that killed a judge. Now she’s going to jail.

The driver in a 2016 drunken driving crash that killed her boyfriend, a former Merced County court commissioner, changed her plea Tuesday, avoiding a potential four-year prison sentence.

Jacqulin Calixtro, who had previously pleaded not guilty, pleaded no contest Tuesday to gross vehicular manslaughter and two counts of felony DUI, according to her defense attorney Chris Loethen.

The 40-year-old was driving 68-year-old Ralph Cook, a retired Merced commissioner, when she allowed the Mercedes she was driving to smash into a guardrail on southbound Highway 99, south of Franklin Road. Cook was killed in the wreck, investigators said.

The crash occurred about 5 a.m. June 8, 2016, as Calixtro was driving Cook home from Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. Cook was taken to the hospital about five hours earlier after he suffered a head injury during a fight outside the Kewl Cats Nightclub in Merced, where Calixtro had been drinking, police said.

The Merced County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Cook’s son and daughter, Kevin Cook and Kelli Mahoney, delivered a statement Wednesday from the family.

“The family appreciates everyone’s support,” the statement read. “We’re glad that she is being held accountable for her actions. We miss him every day.”

Cook, a former attorney and county prosecutor, was appointed in 1991 to serve as a Superior Court commissioner, a post he held until his retirement in 2012. Calixtro worked at Costco at the time of the crash.

Calixtro’s blood alcohol content was .065 percent when she was tested, according to the California Highway Patrol. The legal limit is .08, but investigators argued enough time had passed to bring the content below the legal limit.

Calixtro was drinking after work on June 7, according to investigators’ reports. Cook showed up about 10:30 p.m. but never entered the bar, according to witnesses. The couple argued in the parking lot, and another person who became involved in the dispute assaulted Cook, according to the witnesses.

As part of her plea, Calixtro will receive five years of probation and 360 days in jail, according to Loethen. She will not be allowed to drink nor enter bars or liquor stores.

Prosecutors asked for the maximum four-year sentence in state prison. Visiting Judge Douglas V. Mewhinney ultimately granted the lesser sentence, Loethen said.

“Ralph Cook was the first judge in Merced County I ever practiced in front of,” Loethen said. “At first, he was the judge and later he became my friend. ... (Calixtro) truly loved him. I know he loved her, because of conversations me and him had.”

“I’m very sorry for the loss Ralph’s family suffered,” he said.

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