News Release|

Michelle D. Branch, 49, has been sentenced to more than two decades in the Department of Corrections after killing a mother and her son in a drunk driving crash in 2022.

Around 10:30 p.m. on October 12, 2022, Amber Villarreal and her 18-year-old son, Elijah, were changing a tire on the northbound side of I-25 near milepost 182 in Douglas County. A Colorado State Trooper responded to assist and activated his emergency lights while parked behind the disabled vehicle when Branch crashed into them.

Branch initially told state troopers on scene that she “did not realize she was in a crash.” Troopers notated the smell of alcohol on her breath and when questioned further, Branch admitted to drinking prior to driving.

Branch consented to voluntary roadside tests and failed according to a trooper’s report. A blood draw at the hospital showed Branch’s BAC level was .13.

Branch pleaded guilty to the following offenses:

Vehicular Homicide/DUI (10 Years DOC)

Vehicular Homicide/DUI (10 Years DOC)

Failure to Exercise Caution/Yield Right of Way to Emergency Stationary Vehicle Causing Death (18 months DOC)

“This defendant’s actions have permanently torn apart a family,” Senior Deputy DA Corrie Caler said. “This preventable tragedy took the life of a beloved mother, wife, and grandmother, along with her 18-year-old son who was just beginning his life.”

All sentences will run consecutively to each other.

“While no sentence can eliminate the pain and grief the Villarreal family is going through, I sincerely hope it provides some closure and justice for them,” Chief Deputy DA Garrik Storgaard said. “This defendant had no business being on the road that night after drinking.”

Branch has also been ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

“This case is yet another reminder of the devastating impact drunk driving has on our community,” District Attorney John Kellner said. “I will continue to support my prosecutors in seeking lengthy prison sentences for offenders who make the selfish decision to put innocent lives at risk.”

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