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Driver Pleads Not Guilty in Crash Death of Star Fountain Valley Athlete

Deanna Mauer, 23, was killed in the collision. The attorney for defendant Jorene Ypanto Nicolas says a manslaughter charge is unwarranted.

A San Diego driver charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 23-year-old Fountain Valley woman entered a plea of not guilty this morning in a Westminster courtroom.

Jorene Ypanto Nicolas, 29, faces a maximum six years behind bars on charges related to the April 27, 2011, accident that claimed the life of Deanna Mauer, a

Prosecutors say Nicolas was speeding north on Interstate 405 near Edwards Street and didn’t notice traffic had come to a halt. Traveling about 80 mph in a Toyota Prius, authorities say, she rear-ended a Hyundai sedan driven by Mauer, a standout softball player back in her days at Fountain Valley High School and an assistant coach for the San Juan Hills softball team.

Family and friends of Mauer and Nicolas were in the courtroom today as Nicolas, dressed in a white suit, entered her plea. Nicolas' lawyer said there is no evidence for a manslaughter charge in the case.

"She [Nicolas] wasn't on the cell phone, she was not texting and she was not going 80 mph," said attorney Erick Lampel. He said evidence would come out in trial showing that Mauer contributed to the crash.

Nicolas is next due in court Feb. 23 for a preliminary hearing, during which time the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to require a trial.

Mauer’s car was pushed into the car in front of her and hit the center divider before coming to a stop facing south in the northbound lanes. After crashing into Mauer's car, Nicolas lost control of her own vehicle and crashed into the center divider. She walked away with minor lacerations.

Mauer was taken to UCI Medical Center, where doctors pronounced her dead at 6 that evening as a result of brain death caused by vertebral artery transaction.

Softball was Mauer’s life, San Juan Hills High softball coach Dave Didier previously told Patch. She played for Baker when he coached the girls softball team at Fountain Valley. She was a four-year letter winner and was named team MVP her senior year. She also pitched for the San Jose State University Spartans where her 2008 ERA was 3.61. The school newspaper, the Spartan Daily News, called her “free-spirited.” 

Born June 14, Mauer was 1½ months away from her 24th birthday at the time of the accident.

Mauer’s mom, Dawn Mauer, said working with the Stallion girls changed Dawn' life. She was considering a career in cosmetology until she got back out on the softball field at San Juan Hills.

“After the first day there she came home and said, ‘I loved being back on the field. Now I know what I want to do,’ ” Dawn Mauer .

She planned to get a master’s degree and pursue coaching at a university level, Dawn Mauer said.

“I have no doubt she would [have] accomplished that if she had been given that time,” she said.

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