Three days before the break-in, the couple and two young children that had lived in the home died in an unrelated car accident. The couple has a 19-year-old daughter that is away at college in another state.

Earlier this year the 30-year-old woman sought to have the charge reduced to second degree burglary. She said that due to the death of the California family three days before the alleged break-in, the dwelling was unoccupied. A second degree burglary in California carries a potential 5-year sentence. First degree burglary exposes an accused person to a potential 8-year sentence.

The judge declined the motion. He found that the 19-year-old college student had shown no intent to abandon the dwelling when she went away to college. The accused woman subsequently pleaded no contest to the charge.

At sentencing the prosecutor sought a 6-year prison term. The judge declined to impose the lengthy 6-year prison term. He found the case showed no evidence that the accused knew the family had died three days earlier. The judge could not "penalize this defendant for what happened up on Highway 37," the location of the unrelated fatal car crash.

The defendant was sentenced to one-year to be served in the county jail, with 5-years of probation.

Source: Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "1-year jail time in high-profile Sonoma burglary," Paul Payne, 27 Oct 2010