Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice who is also known as "Lady Justice."
Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice, who is also known as “Lady Justice.” Photo from Pixabay

A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld a former elementary school principal’s second-degree murder conviction for a deadly DUI crash in the Palmdale area.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence that Mary Noel Kruppe, now 38, had the subjective knowledge that she engaged in conduct that was dangerous to human life.

The Pearblossom resident was arrested the night of the crash by California Highway Patrol investigators and has remained behind bars since then.

Along with second-degree murder, she was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. She was sentenced in February 2020 to 15 years to life in state prison.

Kruppe — who was the principal of Enterprise Elementary School in Lancaster at the time — veered left into oncoming traffic while driving southbound on 50th Street East, north of Avenue P, and her 2014 Jeep Wrangler collided head-on with a 2010 Mazda on Nov. 15, 2018.

The driver of the Mazda, 29-year-old Jessica Ordaz of Lancaster, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Kruppe was taken to a hospital for treatment of moderate injuries.

Ordaz was pronounced dead at the scene, and Kruppe was injured in the crash.

“Defendant was not someone who had a drink or two and marginally exceeded the legal limit; the undisputed expert testimony was that defendant consumed in excess of four drinks and was well over the legal limit,” the appellate court panel wrote in its 15-page ruling, which noted that her blood-alcohol concentration was 0.19 — more than twice the legal limit — nearly two hours after the crash.

The appellate court justices found that jurors “could reasonably have inferred that defendant did, in fact, possess the common knowledge of the hazards of driving while intoxicated.”

“Defendant’s coordination of the elementary school’s participation in Red Ribbon Week meant she had general awareness of the risks presented by drugs and alcohol; educating the students about these risks was the entire purpose of the program,” the justices noted, adding that she lied after the crash about drinking and “tried to defeat the preliminary alcohol screening test by blowing inadequate breaths — demonstrating that she well knew that she should not, in fact, have been driving drunk.”

One of Kruppe’s friends had also repeatedly reminded her of the option of taking an Uber when she was drinking, according to the ruling.

The appellate court panel noted that it was a “close case,” but concluded that the evidence was “sufficient.”

 

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