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D.A.: Driver who killed young dad had five DUIs

- Woman faces murder charge

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published: September 12, 2008

THE WOMAN suspected of running down 35-year-old Pacific Grove resident Joel Woods as he picked up his son from P.G. Middle School around lunchtime last Tuesday pleaded not guilty this week to charges of murder and gross vehicular manslaughter.

After reviewing evidence, interviewing witnesses and conferring with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, police re-arrested 51-year-old Deborah King at her Monterey home Tuesday evening, according to PGPD Cmdr. John Nyunt. She was jailed on $1 million bail.

King was reportedly under the influence of prescription drugs when she swerved her BMW SUV into Woods as he was entering his parked truck. She was arrested for felony DUI and later released on bail, but Nyunt had predicted police would seek more severe charges after Woods, who was flown by helicopter to a trauma center for treatment of major injuries, died that night.

“In 2nd degree murder, you act with reckless disregard for human life,” explained deputy district attorney Steve Somers, who reported King has at least five prior DUI convictions. “If you can establish that the person was aware that driving under the influence is dangerous, and that they were under the influence and, knowing the dangers involved, went driving anyway and killed someone, you can establish it was murder.”

The vehicular manslaughter charge stems from her allegedly reckless behavior, and King faces a sentence of 15 years to life for each count if convicted, Somers said.

Woods’ widow, Adrianna, does not know whether she will attend the criminal proceedings against King, whose image she is trying to erase from her mind.

“I’m still in shock from the whole thing, because it happened so fast,” she said, recalling a phone call she got from someone at the school.

“It was, ‘Come pick up Jacob. Joel’s been hit,’ and not fully understanding,” she recalled. “And then, seven hours later, he’s gone.”

Soul mate mourns

With the help of friends and family, she and their sons, 12-year-old Jacob and 10-year-old Nathan, are struggling with grief and seeking ways to survive their terrible loss.

“He was a great husband, caring and loving,” Adrianna Woods said. “We were soul mates.”

They befriended each other as freshmen at Pacific Grove High School, began dating as seniors, graduated in 1991 and married in 1994.

“He was the best dad I know, and so passionate,” she said, adding that after hearing about the accident, a friend and teacher told her Woods was “the dad of dads.”

“And that was him — he lived for our boys,” she continued. Although Woods ran his own DJ business and entertained at hundreds of weddings, he spent most of his time with the kids while she worked full time in the information technology department at Community Hospital.

Jacob has autism, so Woods helped him with “daily tasks that might seem so easy to you and me,” and always took time to explain things. He employed a method of teaching and interacting that called for getting on the floor to be at Jacob’s level.

“I don’t think Jacob would be as high-functioning as he is today if Joel hadn’t done that,” she said. “It takes a tremendous amount of patience.”

Woods reportedly had a penchant for taking every child, especially the underdog, under his wing. He also coached P.G. PONY baseball and attended others’ games, rooting for everyone.

Since his death, many parents have shared stories about his helping their children, according to friend Kathleen Catania.
“It was the same with adults, especially those who had some kind of handicap. He always acknowledged people with respect and dignity, no matter what they looked like or what handicap they had,” Catania said. “He was very comfortable interacting with them, giving them the warmth of his smile or hug.”

A fund for Jacob and Nathan has been established, and anyone wishing to contribute can send a check to Adrianna Woods, Acct. No. 6071017690, Union Bank of California, 580 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950.

In addition, Woods’ friends are invited to a celebration of his life at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley Sunday, Sept. 28, from 2 to 5 p.m.

“All are encouraged to dress ‘Joel Style,’ casually in T-shirts, shorts and sandals,” according to his obituary notice.