Header Graphic
Chris Spurney, '65, RIP
We lost Chris in 1988. The notice below gives us some closure on how Chris left this world. Chris's sister Joan is an Arizona attorney.

Alcoholic Sentenced to Prison
December 06, 1988
|ERIC LICHTBLAU | Times Staff Writer

A 38-year-old chronic alcoholic was ordered Monday to serve 15-years-to-life in prison for his third drunk-driving offense--this one resulting in a collision that killed an off-duty Huntington Beach police detective last year.

Richard G. Gonzales of Lake Forest, one of only a handful of drunk drivers in the county to be prosecuted on murder charges, was convicted in September of second-degree murder in the death of Detective Christopher Spurney.

In delivering the sentence Monday in Superior Court in Santa Ana, Judge Francisco P. Briseno rejected several emotional appeals for leniency from Gonzales' family and the defendant himself. Gonzales' supporters all urged alcoholism treatment, not incarceration, for a man they described as deeply remorseful.

Briseno, citing Gonzales' habitual alcohol problems and drunken driving, ordered imprisonment "to ensure that at least for a substantial portion of your lifetime, this risk not be inflicted on other innocent people."

Defense attorney Lloyd Freeberg said in an interview that the ruling demonstrates the judicial system's "refusal to acknowledge that alcoholics are severely diseased people."

But county probation officers, in a pre-sentencing report reviewed by Briseno, described Gonzales as "cavalier," selfish and cowardly in his attitude toward drinking and driving.

"He apparently could not or would not consider life without alcohol and refused to curtail his driving to accommodate his indulgence, thereby implicitly expecting the rest of society to live with the constant risk he presented," the probation report said.

Moments after the sentence was ordered, Gonzales' distraught mother approached Ruth Spurney, the mother of the detective killed in the crash, and embraced her.

Nonetheless, Ruth Spurney remained bitter. She said that although she feels some sympathy for the Gonzales family, they still have their loved one--imprisoned or not.

Gonzales "got 15 years, but somehow it doesn't help if you don't have your son anymore," said Spurney, of Fullerton. "At least he'll have lots of time in prison to think about this, so maybe next time he won't put another family through the hell that he's put ours."

Christopher Spurney was killed while off-duty about 10 p.m. on June 10, 1987, on the San Diego Freeway near Sand Canyon Avenue in Irvine.

His car was rammed head-on by a car driven by Gonzales, who crossed over the center divider and into northbound traffic at a speed of about 70 m.p.h., according to the prosecution. Spurney, 40, a divorced father of two and a former veteran of the California Highway Patrol, died instantly.


Add Comment

Brian Solinsky on April 9, 2020 at 8:39 AM said:

My father worked with Chris in the Santa Ana CHP office in the 1970’s. I remember meeting him as a little kid. He would come by the house or I would see him when I was at the station. My dad still talks about him. Rest easy Chris, we have the watch from here.
Rene on February 16, 2018 at 10:03 AM said:

Think of Chris often as I pass the spot several times a week, what ever happened to the drunk murderer ??? Chris was always super kool to me!
Kris Spurney on November 12, 2011 at 11:23 PM said:

Chris was my father. Not a day goes by that I don't look to him for guidance and support. He was and remains to be my strength. I miss you dad.
Dave Meier '62 on October 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM said:

I worked with Chris in the old Santa Ana CHP Office years and years ago. I still remember his quiet grace and fairness in all situations. He exemplified everything that I always hoped to be in a Highway Patrolman. Until we meet again Chris....Dave

Add Comment