Sabrina Distura, charged in connection with deaths of 2 Nevada Union students, appears in court | TheUnion.com

Sabrina Distura, charged in connection with deaths of 2 Nevada Union students, appears in court

Sabrina Distura, accused in the deaths of two Nevada Union High School students, formally pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to her charges in Merced County Superior Court, a prosecutor said.

Distura, 21, waived a reading of the charges against her. Judge David W. Moranda then set Distura's next hearing for May 30, Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby said in an email.

Distura's privately hired defense attorney, Cameron Watt in San Jose, will spend the next several weeks examining evidence. Attorneys also will determine their next steps in the case before the next hearing, Colby said.

Distura remained held Wednesday on $560,000 in bond, records state. Colby said her bond wasn't discussed at Wednesday's hearing.

Authorities accuse Distura in the March 25 deaths of Tyler Nielson, 17, and Justin Gardner, 16. They claim she crossed the median of Interstate 5 near Los Banos and collided with the car driven by Nielson, who died at the scene. Gardner died later that day at a hospital.

A third student in the car — 16-year-old Dawson Fay — suffered a broken hip, school officials said.

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Records state that Distura faces eight felonies — two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, three counts of DUI causing injury and three counts of DUI with 0.08 percent or more blood alcohol content. She's charged with one misdemeanor, possession of a controlled substance, which Colby said stems from a small amount of suspected cocaine she had.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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