LANCASTER — A murder trial began Monday for a 26-year-old Lancaster man accused of driving drunk, crashing into a home and killing an elderly woman who was in her bedroom.
Aaron Benson is charged with second-degree murder for the death of 71-year-old Patricia Ann Holmes. He is also charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense and driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense.
The charges stem from a crash that occurred around 10:55 p.m. Sunday, March 29, on the 1000 block of West Avenue J-12 in Lancaster.
Benson was driving drunk when he sideswiped cars parked on the street and then crashed his pickup truck through a bedroom, where Holmes was lying in bed, according to Deputy District Attorney Sun Chung.
“The truck came to rest on top of Ms. Holmes,” Chung told the jury during her opening statement Monday.
The evidence would show that Benson’s blood alcohol content was .21 percent an hour and a half after the crash, and Benson admitted to drinking two 24-ounce beers and two shots of whiskey between 8:30 and 10 p.m. on the night of the fatal crash, Chung said.
Jurors would hear evidence regarding Benson’s 2011 criminal conviction for DUI, Chung said.
“What this case is about is a choice that this defendant made,” the prosecutor told the jury.
During his opening statement, defense attorney Manuel Medrano stressed that his client was not guilty of second-degree murder.
“It was absolutely unforeseeable that the truck would end up in the bedroom of that house,” Medrano told the jury.
Medrano described Benson as a responsible, hardworking young man who had a longstanding drinking problem. “He started drinking alcohol at about age 10,” Medrano told the jury.
Benson would be taking the witness stand during trial to look jurors in the eye and tell his story, the defense attorney said.
“This is not a guy with a rap sheet as long as your left arm,” Medrano told the jury.
If convicted as charged, Benson faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.
The trial is expected to continue this week in Department A20 of the Antelope Valley courthouse.
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