Mesa man drives drunk with seven kids stuffed in sports car

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by Natalie Rivers

azfamily.com

Posted on February 22, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 23 at 2:50 PM

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MESA, Ariz. - A Mesa man is in jail, accused of driving drunk with seven kids on board, three of them stuffed in the trunk of his car.

The youngest child was 6 and the oldest 13.

Mesa police said a neighborhood friend was taking care of the kids and decided to let her good friend drive them all home. The problem was the driver, Robert Soto, was drunk. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

"I think that we're lucky to be alive," said Ashton Voorheis, one of the kids packed into the car.

Ashton and his sister were both stuffed inside Soto's car. Soto was apprehended by police near Mesa Drive and Broadway Road.

Police say Soto, 23, drove the seven neighborhood kids home from a barbecue in his small Mitsubishi Eclipse. 

Police said the kids were terrified.

"My 13-year-old was crying, my son, because he was pretty freaked out and he asked repeatedly to be let out of the car so that he could call me and the driver would not let him get out of the car," Jamie Voorheis said.

"I was angry that he would not let me and my sister out and I feared for me and my sister's life," Ashton said.

Police said Soto had put four of the children in the backseat and three more in the trunk area of the hatchback car.
 
Police also said Soto got into a road rage incident with another driver, who called police.

"Interestingly enough, there was an adult female passenger in the vehicle who happened to be the mother of two of the children that were in the trunk of the car," said Mesa police Sgt. Ed Wessing.

Lynn Meza, 46, was that passenger. She was also the woman caring for the kids -- the one who decided to let Soto drive them all home.

“We just all got into the car, made a bad decision. We were heading home," Meza said. "I apologize. He did not seem drunk to me."

Meza said she did not know Soto had a prior DUI.

Court paperwork showed Soto was arrested in April in a hit-and-run that involved a death. The paperwork showed he pled guilty to a reduced charge.

"I'm a little disappointed in myself for trusting somebody who apparently could have potentially killed my children," Voorheis said.

Soto is behind bars, facing seven counts of child endangerment and DUI.

Police charged Meza with child endangerment.

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