The plea hearing for the Gilroy woman who has been charged on two counts of murder for allegedly driving drunk and causing a Jan. 14 car accident that killed her husband and daughter was once again postponed Thursday afternoon.
After a brief appearance in the Hall of Justice in San Jose, a haggard looking Stacy Lonnberg, 51, spoke in a hushed voice to a public defender, who asked the judge to reschedule the hearing for April 26 at 2 p.m.
Puffy-faced, handcuffed and dressed in red prison garb, Lonnberg leaned back in her chair in the corner of the courtroom and kept her head low.
Lonnberg’s lawyer was not present because he was in trial for another case, according to bailiff Jarvis Bui, who was at the hearing.
If convicted, Lonnberg could face a minimum of 15 years in prison. Matthew Braker, deputy district attorney, said he is confident there is enough evidence to convict Lonnberg with murder.
“Right now, according to our investigation, we think murder is the appropriate charge,” Braker said.
Originally charged with manslaughter, Lonnberg bailed out of jail four days after the wreck but was re-arrested after the District Attorney’s office upped the charges to murder Jan. 25, and has been in custody since.
Lonnberg’s husband Fred Lonnberg, 57, and her daughter Tiffiny Gillette, 26, died when she rolled the family’s pickup on Highway 85 in Los Gatos, according to the California Highway Patrol. Lonnberg has admitted that she had been drinking the day of the accident.
Gillette, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car and pronounced dead on the scene. Lonnberg’s husband, Fred, was pronounced dead hours later at Valley Medical Center.
Lonnberg also has been charged with child endangerment, as her 3-year-old grandson, Ethan, was in the pickup at the time of the wreck, but suffered no serious injuries, according to the District Attorney’s office.
Stacy Lonnberg said she slept for five hours, drank a Bloody Mary and popped an oxycodone on an empty stomach Jan. 14 before getting behind the wheel of her family’s Toyota Tacoma pickup. Less than an hour later, she zipped to speeds 20 mph above posted limits, sideswiped another vehicle while trying to change lanes and rolled her pickup on Highway 85 in Los Gatos, killing her husband and daughter, according to court documents.
Lonnberg was driving in the center lane of the three-lane highway when a witness driving another car told the CHP he saw her “jerk rapidly towards the right,” causing her vehicle to sideswipe a Chevrolet Silverado pickup in the right-hand lane before rolling multiple times and coming to rest on its wheels.
The driver of the Silverado, who was not injured, told the California Highway Patrol he never saw Lonnberg’s pickup until “he heard and felt a collision to the left side.” As he moved to the right shoulder he saw Lonnberg swerve back toward the center and left-hand lanes, then attempt to turn back to the right before the pickup started rolling, according to court documents. The man said he immediately dialed 9-1-1.
Ten witnesses gave statements to the CHP, including an off-duty paramedic, an off-duty nurse and two former lifeguards, all who stopped and attempted to provide medical aid until emergency crews arrived, according to court documents obtained by the Dispatch.
Lonnberg suffered bruising on her chest and shoulder, according to a CHP report.
Lonnberg’s brother, 49-year-old Montana resident Cody Fuchs, said his sister “did wrong,” and that he misses his brother-in-law and niece. But family members are still offering support for Lonnberg, he said.
“She did something stupid. But she’s got families that love her to death,” Fuchs said over the phone. “We’re going to stick behind her 110 percent. She’s family. Blood is thicker than water.”
“My sister was a mother and a wife. And she lost her husband and her daughter,” he added.
Fred Lonnberg’s son, Curtis Lonnberg, said his stepmother, whom he referred to as “the woman who was driving,” has battled alcoholism for years.
“I know that her drink of choice was vodka,” he said.
This recent charge isn’t Lonnberg’s first incident with alcohol behind the wheel. In 2005, she pleaded no contest to reckless driving involving alcohol in San Mateo County and was sentenced to 24 months probation, according to court records.