DUI Motorist Pleads Guilty to Murder, Sentenced to 15 Years to Life in Prison

Patch.com reports that a Rivco man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in an Orange County court earlier this month for his role in the death of a woman and her dog near Costa Mesa in 2020.

Court Documents confirm that Ali Zohair Fakhreddine pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree murder, hit-and-run with permanent and serious injury, and DUI.

Fakhreddine was arrested for his role in the death of a 72-year-old woman and her Shih Tsu while they were walking in an unincorporated area of Costa Mesa on September 6, 2020.

At approximately 6:15 a.m., the victim was crossing the street at Irvine Avenue and Costa Mesa Street intersection when she was struck by a 2014 Hyundai driven by Fakhreddine, who blew through a red light. The defendant did not stop after hitting the woman and her dog.

Officers with the Riverside Police Department found Fakhreddine passed out behind the wheel of his car, which had visible front-end damage. According to a statement by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Fakhreddine drove off when officers attempted to revive him.

Police eventually caught up to Fakhreddine and arrested him on suspicion of DU and hit-and-run. Tests would reveal that Fakhreddine had a blood alcohol level of .10 percent and marijuana and fentanyl in his system at the time of the fatal crash. 

The defendant was charged with murder rather than vehicular manslaughter due to two previous DUI convictions in 2008 and 2015. Fakhreddine was advised of a sentencing enhancement that meant he faced a potential murder charge if convicted of a DUI crash resulting in a fatality.

Fakhreddine attempted to apologize to the victim’s family, but the gesture was rejected.

“Every day, I pray to God to take away your pain, your grief,” Fakhreddine responded. “I’m sorry for the mental, physical, and spiritual harm I caused. I apologize for the actions I’m responsible for, for taking the precious life of (the victim). I wish I could take them back. The decision I made that day will haunt me. I have no excuse. I have to live with that. I will pray for you to the end of my days.”

The judge told Fakhreddine that his apology and plea should be impactful when he appeared before a parole board and was given credit for the 922 days he had served in custody.

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