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Palm Springs woman pleads guilty

VISTA — A woman who had alcohol and drugs in her system when she plowed head-on into a car and killed two married couples near Pala Casino pleaded guilty Jan. 17 to a DUI causing injury and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

On the day her second trial was set to begin, Deanna Fridley, 27, of Palm Springs, changed her plea to guilty after declaring innocence since the Dec. 14, 2007, crash that happened just before midnight on a curve on state Route 76.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Runston Maino is expected to sentence Fridley to 18 years in prison Feb. 22.

In July 2010, a mistrial was declared after a single juror was unconvinced that Fridley was the one behind the wheel of her GMC Yukon Denali when it went into the oncoming lane and killed the four people in a Toyota Camry who were out on a date for dinner and gambling.

The couples inside the Camry were best friends Jesus De Santiago, 45, and his wife, Lina De Santiago, 46, of Escondido; and Luiz Baez, 51, and his wife, Rubi Baez, 46, of Vista.

Fridley and her passenger, Anthony Boles, had blood alcohol limits in their system that were above the state’s legal limit of .08, according to the prosecutor.

Fridley’s blood-alcohol level was .12 and she also tested positive for methamphetamine.

It was originally believed by authorities that parolee Boles — who had a suspended license — was the driver of the Yukon.

But a surveillance tape from Pala Casino revealed Fridley, who weighed nearly 400 pounds, getting into the driver’s seat just three minutes before a 911 call was made about the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.

She was arrested from her hospital bed in Escondido on Jan. 18, 2008, at the end of her nearly monthlong recovery from broken bones.

At her first trial she testified that she was originally driving the night of the accident but traded places with Boles because she was “too messed up to drive,” according to prosecutor Brenda Daly.

During court testimony in that trial, the trauma to Fridley’s legs was said to be consistent with the damage to the driver’s side of the Yukon.

Daly told the court that Fridley and her best friend Amber Arviso had been smoking methamphetamine