Woman convicted of murder in freeway crash that killed friend near Mission Bay
A woman whose passenger was killed when her car veered off the freeway near Mission Bay and overturned in Tecolote Creek was convicted today of murder and other charges.
Jennifer Rae Xavier, 23, was found guilty of causing the March 4, 2021 crash that killed her friend, 21-year-old Sidnie Waller.
Deputy District Attorney Philippa Cunningham alleged that after the women went out to bars in Pacific Beach that night, Xavier got behind the wheel while drunk and under the influence of Xanax.
Waller sent her brother and a friend several text messages prior to the crash which stated that Xavier was drunk and had taken “a bar,” meaning Xanax. The texts stated that Waller was “terrified” because Xavier was swerving, nearly struck other cars and driving at over 100 miles per hour.
The car veered off southbound Interstate 5 and overturned in the creek below.
Cunningham alleged Xavier then walked from the scene of the wreck and onto the freeway while drenched in water and was picked up by a passing motorist.
Responding firefighters pulled Waller from the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital, where she died days later.
Xavier was arrested in August of 2021. In addition to murder, she was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run causing death.
The prosecutor said Xavier was aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, citing text messages between the defendant and another friend more than a year before the fatal crash. Those messages describe an incident from 2019, in which Xavier drove drunk and crashed her car.
Though Xavier stated in the messages she wouldn’t drink and drive again, Cunningham said, “Unfortunately for Sidnie Waller, that didn’t change.”
Xavier’s defense attorney, G. Cole Casey, told jurors there was no forensic evidence collected that night that could confirm his client was intoxicated while driving the car. Though Xavier and Waller went out drinking, there were no witnesses who said Xavier appeared intoxicated, he said.
Casey argued the prosecution’s theory regarding Xavier’s level of intoxication and manner of driving relied on Waller’s text messages.
He told jurors during his closing argument, “What you’re being asked to do is to take (the messages) all at face value.”
The attorney also said in the approximately five-mile stretch between Pacific Beach and the crash scene, no one called 911 to report seeing a car driving erratically in the manner Waller described.