Family demands justice after mom, son killed in alleged DUI crash in Castle Rock

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — A month has passed since a mother and son were killed while they tried to fix a tire on Interstate 25 near Castle Rock.

According to investigators, the suspect, Michelle Branch, was driving while under the influence when she struck Amber Villarreal and her 18-year-old son Elijah on Oct. 12.

According to Colorado State Patrol, a group of four people were experiencing tire problems that night. A state trooper told two people from the group to get back inside the vehicle as a safety precaution. A short time later, the trooper was walking away when a driver traveled onto the shoulder. The driver struck the mother and son, killing them instantly, then hit the guardrail, which disabled the vehicle, CSP said.

Branch posted a $100K bond the following day.

She made her first in-person court appearance in Douglas County on Tuesday.

Branch faces charges for driving under the influence and two felony counts of vehicular homicide.

An arrest affidavit in the case obtained by Denver7 read that Branch told deputies responding to the crash that she “did not realize she was in a crash,” and had a strong smell of alcohol coming from her breath.

Family members of the victims were in the courtroom on Tuesday and said they don’t feel justice is being served.

“I was angry and I didn’t understand how or why,” said Salome Perlman, Amber’s sister. “How can you take two lives that easy and just walk? My sister and my nephew didn’t come home. And she’s home.”

“She got to go home to her family and our family will never come home again,” said Laurie Perlman, Amber’s cousin. “She took the life of a grown woman that was a wife, a mother, grandmother. And then she also took the life of an 18-year-old who was just starting his life.”

Now, loved ones said they’ll continue fighting for justice while helping spread awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence.

“Don’t do it. It’s not worth losing your life, your family losing you and other people losing their family because of one selfish act,” Laurie said. “I feel like there’s not even any justice at all at this point.”

“We lost our family. I’ll never see them again. Our family is devastated,” Salome added.

Branch will return to court on Dec. 2.

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