DOYLESTOWN >> A New Jersey woman will spend 12 to 24 years in state prison for driving drunk into oncoming traffic on Interstate 95 in Bensalem in April, causing a crash that left three people dead.
Priscilla Cortez, 34, of Camden, appeared before Common Pleas Judge C. Theodore Frisch Jr., who handed down the sentence after hearing victim impact statements from several family members, including the parents of the victims.
On Oct. 19, Cortez pleaded guilty to three counts each of homicide by vehicle while drunken driving and homicide by vehicle, as well as three counts of drunken driving and several summary traffic offenses.
Cortez was driving south on northbound I-95, near mile marker 33, at about 1:40 a.m. on April 1 when she crashed into a car and killing Ryan Connell, 28, Leanne Popson, 35, both of the Levittown area, and Lucas Gelatko, 36, of Yardley. All three victims had children.
At her Jan. 25 sentencing, Gelatko’s mother described her son as a “funny, playful person who is dead because a woman decided to drive when she had been drinking.”
Connell’s father told the court, “My wife and I lost our son who was a father of three small children. They will never get that back. The hope and take here will be of the seriousness of drinking and driving and what could be the outcome when making the wrong decision.”
And Popson’s father added in his impact statement, “I am devastated. I miss my daughter and only child more and more every day.”
An investigation showed that Cortez was driving 69 mph when she crashed in a 55 mph zone.
Cortez was interviewed at the scene and had a strong odor of alcohol on her breath. When asked if she had consumed alcohol prior to the crash, Cortez admitted that she had consumed “a lot.”
During the investigation, state police reviewed home surveillance footage that showed Cortez driving southbound in the northbound lanes on I-95.
Cortez was treated at the hospital and she consented to a blood draw, which found that her blood-alcohol content was 0.156 percent. The tests also found that she had marijuana in her system.
The case was investigated by Pennsylvania State Police, Trevose Barracks and prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Robert D. James.