No. 15: This fixture at DUI checkpoints in Garden Grove and Cypress isn’t a cop, but a mother
Editor’s note: In honor of Behind the Badge OC’s one-year anniversary, we will be sharing the 30 most-read stories. This story was originally published April 17.
It’s approaching midnight on a recent Friday in Garden Grove as two lanes of motorists crawl through a DUI checkpoint.
“Have you had anything to drink tonight?” Garden Grove PD Officer Nick Jensen asks a driver as he examines his license.
“No, officer. Just coming home from work.”
Before Jensen waves the driver through, a woman in black wearing a reflective safety vest hands the motorist a flyer.
“This is some information from MADD for you to read,” she says.
Haze Saliture, 65, isn’t being paid to be here.
But for the last 18 years, she’s been a fixture at DUI checkpoints in Garden Grove and Cypress, often joined by her husband, John, 64.
The reason for their tireless volunteerism:
A barely 16-year-old girl with dark curly hair, boundless energy, and a passion for shopping, water sports and family — a girl who dreamed of becoming an interior decorator who spent some of her final moments alive with a good friend seeing a movie.
Allison Charla Saliture and her friend, Amy, had planned on grabbing some tacos on their way home after the movie that night, March 26, 1994.
The girls were stopped at a red light, about a quarter mile from Allison’s home, when their car was read-ended by an unlicensed, 19-year-old motorist driving between 70 and 100 miles per hour after consuming 10 to 12 glasses of beer and four glasses of brandy.
Haze soon heard the sirens from her home.
John, an aerospace executive, was away in Palm Springs.
It was around 11:20 p.m.
“I remember thinking,” Haze Saliture says, clutching a damp white tissue, “‘I hope whoever those ambulances are going for is going to be OK.’”
It wasn’t OK, and never will be.
For five days, Allison was in a coma at UCI Medical Center in Orange.
She suffered a traumatic brain injury but no visible injuries.
She looked like she was sleeping when her family took her off life support March 31, 1994.
More than 1,000 people attended Allison’s funeral at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Cypress. She was put to rest at Forest Lawn in Cypress.
The drunk driver who killed Allison, Rene Castorena, had consumed four to five pitchers of beer over a period of several hours with his coworkers at a Shakey’s before Castorena drove to a friend’s house, according to court documents.
That’s where Castorena slugged down brandy.
Deciding to go home, Castorena tried to exit the house through a window, apparently mistaking it for the front door, according to a court document.
His friend asked for his car keys and offered to give Castorena a ride home.
Castorena initially agreed and gave his keys to his friend, but just before getting in his car he walked back inside his friend’s house, saying he needed to drive his sister-in-law to work early the next morning.
After his friend gave him back his car keys, Castorena left the house, only to return within a few minutes, according to court documents.
Castorena again changed his mind, took his keys and drove away in his Volkswagen Rabbit.
Traveling 70 to 100 miles per hour, often on the wrong side of the road, Castorena ran several red lights.
Ultimately, he rear-ended the car Allison and her friend were in, at a red light at Valley View Street and Lincoln Avenue in Cypress.
The impact hurled their car 25 feet.
Amy, who was driving, miraculously escaped without major injuries.
Castorena sustained serious facial injuries.
The jury in the five-day trial only deliberated for about 30 minutes.
Castorena was found guilty, and the judge sentenced him to the aggravated upper term of 10 years in state prison for voluntary manslaughter with gross negligence and drunk driving.
As for Allison’s family, they’re sentenced to a lifetime of grief.
Besides her parents, Allison is survived in her immediate family by a twin sister, Jennifer, now 37; an older sister, Kimberly, 40; and a younger sister, Kristian, 28.
At the recent DUI checkpoint in Garden Grove, police made one arrest for suspicion of 23152 — the California Vehicle Code number for Driving Under the Influence.
“If we get only one DUI arrest,” John Saliture said, “that’s a home run.”
Asked why she continues to volunteer at DUI checkpoints more than 21 years after Allison’s death, Haze said:
“To keep my daughter’s memory alive.”
Haze and her husband have been working with MADD since 1994, and Haze started working DUI checkpoints in 1997.
She decided to support DUI checkpoints in Garden Grove, in addition to Cypress, because it is a neighboring city.
“Her commitment to MADD is the best I’ve ever seen,” said Sgt. Jim Fischer of the Garden Grove PD, who runs many of his agency’s sobriety checkpoints. “She helps us out so much.”
MADD awarded Haze the prestigious Heart of MADD award in 2010, and she has won numerous awards and state and federal proclamations for her tireless commitment to educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving.
John Saliture serves on the MADD Southern California Advisory Board and has worked with political leaders to craft DUI legislation at the county and state level.
One such politician is Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who was the prosecutor who successfully won the aggravated 10-year sentence for Castorena for killing Allison.
Spitzer, current chairman of the board of supervisors, remains close friends with the Salitures.
“Haze has tirelessly worked in the arena of DUI prevention since the tragic DUI killing of her teenage daughter, Allison,” Spitzer told Behind the Badge OC. “Her steadfast dedication to DUI checkpoints and DUI education efforts have prevented countless DUI tragedies. Her leadership will continue to set an example and pave the way for continued DUI prevention efforts.”
Allison’s death shattered her siblings and parents.
To this day, her sisters prefer not to publicly discuss it.
Allison was fiercely protective of her siblings, who each have a small tattoo on their ankles with Allison’s name incorporated into a red heart.
To honor her twin, Jennifer gave her daughter Julia the middle name Allison.
And on Feb. 18 this year, Kristian named her newborn baby Allison Nicole.
Haze and John believe more drivers today are aware of the perils of drunk driving, but they also know it’s a constant battle to keep beating the message.
Sharing Allison’s story, they believe, helps.
Haze recalls a motorist several years ago who was arrested by Garden Grove cops on suspicion of drunk driving at a checkpoint she was working.
An officer asked Haze, “Can you tell him why you are here?”
She walked up to the handcuffed suspect.
“My daughter was killed by a drunk driver,” Haze told him.
He looked at her mournfully.
“I’m so sorry,” he said.
Then the suspected drunk driver turned to the officer and said, “Thank you for getting me off the street before I ended up hurting or killing someone.”
Then he expressed his condolences again to Haze.
“I’ll never forget that guy,” she said.
Tragically, Castorena never had such a chance to be in a similar situation – busted before he hurt or killed someone.
By hopping behind a wheel with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, he killed a girl who had turned 16 only 17 days before the crash and was just beginning to drive.
He killed a teen whose favorite class at Cypress High School was photography, whose favorite lunch was Denny’s chicken melt slam with seasoned fries, and who craved water sports.
Allison Saliture was just a kid finding her way in the world — and enjoying her family and friends.
Two streets in Cypress are named after her. And there are trees planted in her memory at Morris Elementary and Cypress High, where there also is a memorial plaque in the student body quad. Also, last year a tree was planted at Evergreen Park in Cypress in Allison’s memory —- an effort spearheaded by former Cypress Chief of Police Jackie Gomez-Whiteley.
Even after all these years, whenever Haze hears a siren, it takes her back to that horrible night in March 1994.
And keeps her motivated to keep volunteering.
At the recent DUI checkpoint in Garden Grove, Haze Saliture handed another motorist a MADD flyer.
The driver pulled away from the DUI checkpoint.
And the mother prepared to hand out another flyer.
“You can either crawl into a hole and be miserable the rest of your life,” John Saliture said, “or you can decide to make a difference and keep the memory of your loved one alive — and hopefully inspire some people to be more responsible and not drink and drive.”
Nearby, Garden Grove Police Chaplain Harry Krebs watched Haze.
“It’s giving her some inner satisfaction,” he said, admiring her tenacity and dedication after all these years.
Added the chaplain: “It’s giving her some peace.”