An Ignacio woman suspected of careless driving causing the death of a Farmington man in February pleaded “not guilty” to seven misdemeanor charges Thursday in 6th Judicial District Court.
Virginia Cundiff, 24, is charged with careless driving causing death and bodily injury, driving without a license and possession of drug paraphernalia, among other offenses.
A trial is scheduled for December.
Cundiff is accused of causing the death of Dominic Sandoval, 24, and injuring another man when she crashed into a work truck on Colorado Highway 172, about 2 miles south of Elmore’s Corner. Sandoval and his work partner were setting up a work zone along the right shoulder when Cundiff crashed into them and their work truck at 47 mph, according to law enforcement.
Sandoval died from his injuries after smashing through the passenger side of Cundiff’s windshield, law enforcement said.
Sandoval’s family attended Thursday’s court hearing at La Plata County Courthouse. They dressed in matching red T-shirts with a picture of Sandoval and text that read, “Justice for Sandoval.”
Cundiff attended the hearing virtually from the La Plata County Jail.
Cundiff’s defense requested a reduction in bail, which was set at $50,000 after she violated terms of previous bail conditions.
Deputy District Attorney Vance Davis argued against Cundiff’s request for a bail reduction, saying she failed to appear in court three times for a previous case, failed to appear twice in her current case and failed to comply with pretrial drug and substance testing.
“(The) defendant has been arrested a few times in this case and has been released on bond and has failed miserably to comply with the terms and conditions of the bond,” Davis said.
He said her bail was increased after several people reported seeing Cundiff driving on a revoked license after having been charged with causing the death of Sandoval.
Cundiff’s defense lawyer argued that Cundiff is receiving treatment from Axis Health System and is on medications for PTSD and anxiety; that her primary source of annual income comes from chokecherry picking in the late summer and fall, which is approaching; and that she wants to support her son.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Todd Norvell denied Cundiff’s request for a bail reduction. He said he imposed the bail conditions, which included substance-abuse testing and no driving, to “ensure the safety of the community.”
“Ms. Cundiff has a drug problem,” he said. “That increases the risk of harm to the public. I’ve also ordered that she not drive because the evidence in this case is strong on the careless driving resulting in death and the careless driving resulting in injury.”
He said Cundiff has missed previous court dates, tested positive for methamphetamines and violated other conditions of pretrial services.
“I’ve given her chance after chance, and here we are,” he said. “So the request is denied.”
On July 1, the judge dismissed a felony charge accusing Cundiff of crashing into a “public utility service vehicle.” He said the felony charge didn’t quite line up with the alleged facts of the case, because the vehicle Cundiff is suspected of hitting didn’t meet the definition of a “public utility service vehicle.”
After attending Cundiff’s court hearing Thursday, Sandoval’s family said they planned to visit his roadside memorial on Colorado Highway 172. The Colorado Department of Transportation told Diana Lee, Sandoval’s mother, that his memorial must be removed because it is a potential distraction to drivers, Lee said.
In an interview, Lee said she was caught off guard when the felony charge was dropped. Sandoval’s brother-in-law, Carlos Arriola, said Cundiff “got off on a technicality.”
Lee said her family is seeking justice for Sandoval. They plan to start a petition and meet with Colorado lawmakers to discuss ways to amend the laws so that careless driving causing the death of roadside workers results in a more serious charge.
She said Sandoval would have given the shirt off his back, and he was always smiling.
“For my birthday, he planned to take me to Vegas. That didn’t happen,” she said.
Sandoval wanted to go back to school to become an electrician, she said.
“People’s lives get cut short – everything comes to a halt for us, but the world keeps going,” Arriola said. “It’s rough, but there’s got to be some sort of change.”