[UPDATED with Suspect Speaking, Service Parking:] Austin Jeffrey Farley Charged With Murder in DUI Death of Ashton Sweet
Meanwhile, the accused murderer of the 14-year-old Irvine freshmen cheerleader says in a published interview that he is a "human being" and not the "monster" the media make him out to be.
"As a human being, as a person, I feel terrible for their family," Austin Jeffrey Farley tells the Daily Pilot, whose Lauren Williams interviewed the 26-year-old Irvine man from behind a glass partition at Orange County Jail in Santa Ana.
"They're making me out to be a monster, and I'm not," he reportedly continued. "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."
He did not deny nor claim responsibility for the crash, which has earned him a possible 22-years-to-life sentence in state prison. Farley earlier pleaded not guilty to one felony count of murder and one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury with sentencing enhancement allegations for causing great bodily injury or death to more than one victim and inflicting great bodily injury.
According to the Pilot piece, Farley would not discuss the circumstances of the May 28 crash. Sporting a shaven head and a left arm sleeved with tattoos, he did reportedly talk about his long criminal rap sheet, which he blamed on obsessive-compulsive disorder.
"It's an anxiety disorder that has been torturing me for years," Farley reportedly said. "It hasn't made life easy for me. Every little daily routine is more difficult."
Told that the other passengers of the car Sweet was riding in are expected to make full recoveries, Farley reportedly exclaimed, "Great!"
Today's memorial service for Sweet begins at 5 p.m. at Chinese Baptist Church of Central Orange County in Irvine, but city police, who are handling traffic control during the duration of the services, has set up a reserved parking area at the east edge of Canyon View Elementary School, which is directly across the street from the church at 12012 Yale Court. The public can begin parking there at 3 p.m.
Sweet's family has allowed media inside the service, but videography and photography will be limited to pool representatives
The church is near Northwood High School, where Sweet was a freshman cheerleader.
"The service will be open to all who wish to come," Elizabeth Sweet, the girl's mother, tells The Orange County Register. "We will wear one of Ashton's favorite colors--green--as a celebration of life and renewal."
The mother tells the Santa Ana daily that every day is a struggle, but she has found comfort--or delayed grief--in keeping busy preparing for the service, the condolences from the community and the knowledge that the lives of others are being extended thanks to donations of her daughter's organs.
One Legacy, an organ-donation group, reportedly informed Mrs. Sweet that Ashton's heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas will be donated to six people. Her liver was split in two parts to go to two patients, and each kidney went to different people. Ashton's corneas, skin and other tissue will also be donated to those in need.
In other crash-related news, 15-year-old Krista Merassa, who was critically injured and had been the last passenger in her car still hospitalized, is now recovering at home.
|Courtesy of Irvine Police Department|
|Austin Jeffrey Farley is being held on $1 million bail.|
UPDATE, JUNE 1, 6:09 P.M.: The Orange County district attorney's office amended the charges today against Austin Jeffrey Farley. But whatever prosecutors threw at the 26-year-old Irvine man, he pleaded not guilty to them at today's arraignment in Newport Beach.
Actually, he declared his innocence to one felony count of murder and one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury with sentencing enhancement allegations for causing great bodily injury or death to more than one victim and inflicting great bodily injury.
However one slices it, the amended charges could draw Farley slightly more prison time if he is convicted of Ashton Sweet's murder: He could now get 22 years to life in state prison.
Still being held on $1 million bail, Farley has a pretrial hearing scheduled for June 24 and a preliminary hearing set for July 15, both at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.
In another heart-breaking development, Farley's mother said today she would give her own life to bring the back 14-year-old Sweet, who, like her son, attended Irvine's Northwood High School.
"Our family, including Austin, is deeply saddened by this horrible traffic accident, which has caused such tragic consequences to those involved, including their families," Cynthia Farley said through her son's attorney (and via The Orange County Register) before the defendant's court appearance.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to them during their time of grief," she continued. "While I find myself searching for reasons, as this awful event is investigated, I would personally give my life if it would bring back Ashton Sweet."