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Defendant in Irvine cheerleader death calls events 'terrible'

Austin Jeffrey Farley, 26, describes battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder in jailhouse interview.

June 04, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com
  • Austin Jeffrey Farley
Austin Jeffrey Farley (Courtesy Irvine…)

SANTA ANA — Speaking from behind a glass partition in Orange County Jail, the Irvine man accused of killing a 14-year-old Irvine cheerleader while driving drunk expressed sadness and concern Friday for the families affected by the May 29 collision.

Austin Jeffrey Farley did not admit or deny responsibility for the teenager's death, saying that he is not the "careless maniac" being portrayed in the media.

"As a human being, as a person, I feel terrible for their family," he said. "They're making me out to be a monster, and I'm not. Like any average American human being with a heart, it's a tragedy. Whether I was in the accident or not, I would be upset. I'm not an animal. I'm just a person."

Prosecutors see a different man.

The Orange County district attorney has charged the 26-year-old construction worker with murder and other crimes in the Memorial Day weekend wreck in Irvine.

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It claimed Northwood High School freshman Ashton Sweet's life and sent four other people to the hospital. Farley is accused of driving with a blood alcohol level more than two and a half times the legal limit.

"This is a case about personal responsibility," said Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office. "Basically what happened to Ashton Sweet is totally unjustifiable."

And, Schroeder stressed, two years ago a judge had warned the defendant that he could be charged with murder if he drove drunk again.

The D.A. alleges that Farley's Toyota pickup truck T-boned a Mercedes-Benz carrying four teenagers and a parent home from a birthday celebration. The crash left Sweet brain-dead and temporarily hospitalized, and 15-year-old Krista Merassa with a lacerated spleen and lung injuries.

Farley has pleaded not guilty to murder, driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury. If convicted, he faces 20 years to life in prison.

The defendant said he largely was unaware of the consequences of Sunday's crash at Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard until a reporter informed him, and that he did not know the condition of the other victims in the Mercedes.

"That's great!" Farley said, sitting straight up, his cloudy blue eyes wide with interest, when told that Merassa was expected to make a full recovery.

Several attempts to reach the Sweet family were unsuccessful.

A memorial for the victim is set for 5 p.m. Monday at Chinese Baptist Church of Central Orange County, 12012 Yale Court, Irvine.

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