Nevada County woman pleads no contest to vehicular homicide charge
Carlee D’Arata, accused in the April 15 death of Antonette Thevenin, pleaded no contest Friday, Sept. 8, to a count of gross vehicular homicide while intoxicated. Prosecutors expect she will receive a 10-year prison sentence next month.
But Thevenin’s family members say the sentence isn’t harsh enough.
D’Arata was convicted in 2007 of misdemeanor DUI, prosecutors said. Tina Marie Brown, Thevenin’s sister, said the prior charge should have been a warning to D’Arata, but she fears the 28-year-old Nevada County woman didn’t learn her lesson.
The Nevada County District Attorney’s Office alleged D’Arata’s blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit when the ATV she was driving crashed and killed the 31-year-old Thevenin. Two other passengers in the ATV received minor injuries.
“Ten years ago you had your warning,” said Brown of D’Arata, her former co-worker and a family friend. “That old DUI gets looked at like that was a long time ago, and that’s very disturbing to me. It tells a story in my eyes.”
Brown said she tried on numerous occasions to coach D’Arata through what she called a drinking problem.
“I was trying to really encourage her about recovery and about getting excited about her life … this feels like a huge betrayal to me,” she said.
Thevenin’s mother, Patricia Strom, said she’s “angry and upset” that D’Arata’s choices resulted in the death of her daughter. According to Strom, D’Arata and other passengers who had been riding on the ATV at the time of Thevenin’s death fled the scene for fear of prosecution.
“It makes me sick to my stomach that these other girls have kids they’re tucking into bed every night. They just don’t understand,” she said.
Strom said Thevenin’s husband had died from a cardiac arrest six months prior to her death. The trauma of losing a mother and stepfather, she said, has been especially hard on Thevenin’s 11-year-old daughter, who now lives with her father.
“That was the thing that really bothered me about (Thevenin’s) relationship with Carlee,” Brown said.
“If you have a friend whose husband has just died, the best thing you can do is really just offer her a safe environment where she can mourn. But, instead, it was this ‘let me put a drink in your hand’ kind of thing. That’s an immature, empty kind of friendship. And her friendship ended up being deadly.”