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Former Cuesta student sentenced to 7 years for hit-and-run death of Cal Poly

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Gianna Brencola attends her April 18 sentencing.
Photo by Alexander Bissell / Cuestonian Photo & Video Chief

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By Rachel Barnes
Editor-in-chief

Former Cuesta student, Gianna Brencola, was sentenced April 18 to seven years in state prison for the hit-and-run death of a Cal Poly student on his bicycle last fall.

Brencola was reportedly driving drunk when she struck and killed Kennedy Love and then fled the scene.

“We know that when alcohol and vehicles mix, terrible things happen,” said San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen. “Normal people become criminals.”

Brencola faced a maximum of 10 years behind bars for the charges of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run and felony DUI.

She became the only juvenile in 2017 to be arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after the fatal collision that occurred on Aug. 29.

“There is a level of knowledge in the community about what happens when people drink and drive that puts a huge responsibility on the driver,” van Rooyen said.

Brencola’s family sat behind her and cried as the judge rejected the defense’ request of sentencing her to probation.

“She was a young woman with a serious alcohol problem, probation is not a just outcome,” van Rooyen said.

He instead sentenced her to the seven-year sentence the probation officer recommended and ordered her to pay nearly $12,000 in court fees.

The courtroom was packed with Love’s family and friends who became very emotional during the proceedings. Love’s mother, sister, and father all took the opportunity to address the judge.

“To say that my heart is shattered is an understatement,” said Dorthanna Love, the victim’s mother, during her victim-witness statement. “Our family is broken and will never be the same.”

Brencola openly wept while Love’s family gave statements and addressed her directly.

“If you knew you were going to be drinking all day — you need to make an action plan,” Love’s sister Candise Wade told Brencola during her statement.

Last fall, Love, 22, was riding his bike down Foothill Boulevard, near Ferrini Road, at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 29 when the suspect allegedly hit him, left the scene and then abandoned her vehicle, officials said.

In the vehicle Brencola abandoned, police found fake ID’s believed to be for the purpose of obtaining alcohol illegally.

Police arrested Brencola after locating her in her Los Osos home, authorities said. When a blood test was taken five hours after the alleged collision, it showed her blood-alcohol content was .148, nearly two times the legal driving limit for adults. Brencola was 17 at the time.

A judge ruled in October that Brencola should be tried as an adult due to the seriousness of the case. She was then transferred on Nov. 9 to County Jail where she has remained in custody.

Last fall, Brencola pled not guilty to charges of vehicular manslaughter, felony DUI and felony hit-and-run. On March 6, Brencola amended her plea to guilty to the same charges.

In response to the judge’s sentencing, Brencola’s defense lawyer, Paul Phillips said:

“We would have hoped for a grant of probation, but we accept the judges ruling.”