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September 2, 2014

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Woman faces 6 murder counts in wrong-way freeway crash

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San Gabriel Valley Tribune,Watchara Phomicinda / AP

Officials investigate the scene of a multiple-vehicle accident in which six people were killed on the westbound Pomona Freeway in Diamond Bar, Calif., on Sunday morning, Feb. 9, 2013. Authorities say a wrong-way driver caused the pre-dawn crash.

LOS ANGELES — A woman whom police say drove the wrong way on a Southern California freeway, sparking a deadly head-on crash that killed her sister and five others, was charged Thursday with six counts of murder, Los Angeles County prosecutors said.

Olivia Culbreath, 21, of Fontana, could face up to life in prison if convicted.

Culbreath's bail was set at $6 million. but she remained hospitalized with a broken femur and ruptured bladder suffered in Sunday's crash east of Los Angeles.

It was unclear when Culbreath would be able to appear in court. District attorney's spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said she did not immediately know whether Culbreath had obtained an attorney.

Witnesses said Culbreath's car may have been traveling at up to 100 mph eastbound in the westbound lanes of State Route 60 in Diamond Bar when it collided head-on with a Ford Explorer, hurling wreckage and bodies onto the freeway. The Explorer was then hit by a Ford Freestyle.

Two people in the Explorer — Gregorio Mejia-Martinez, 47, and Ester Delgado, 80 — died at the scene, county coroner's Lt. Fred Corral said. Two others — Leticia Ibarra, 42, and Jessica Jasmine Mejia, 20 — were declared dead at a hospital. All four were from the same Huntington Park family.

Culbreath's sister, Maya Louise Culbreath, 24, of Rialto, and another Camaro passenger, Kristin Melissa Young, 24, of Chino, died at the scene, Corral said.

The Ford Freestyle's driver, Joel Cortez, 57, of La Puente, was treated for minor injuries.

Police have said they found an alcoholic beverage at the crash scene, but prosecutors didn't file charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. However, the investigation continued and additional charges could be filed, Ardalani said.

Culbreath, the mother of a newborn boy, had a 2010 conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol stemming from a 2009 incident when she was 17. Her license was pulled, but it was reinstated in 2011, according to Department of Motor Vehicle records.

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