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Opening Statements Begin For Driver In Crash That Killed Thornton Family

BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) - Witnesses testified in the trial of a woman accused in a crash that killed a Thornton family.

Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of Monica Chavez.

Prosecutors say she was driving in February 2011 in Thornton when she lost control of her SUV, hit a median, went airborne and then landed on top of a pickup truck. Randy and Crystal Stollsteimer and their three boys were in the truck and were killed.

Chavez has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally negligent homicide.

Chavez cried when her 12-year-old daughter took the stand. The child testified about seeing her mother begin to shake at a stop light, say she couldn't breathe, and finally see her mother's leg press down on the gas pedal and their car careen across traffic, smashing into the SUV with the Stollsteimer family inside.

Chavez' husband, George Chavez, testified about the phone call his daughter made to him during and after the car crash.

"She was crying and scared, telling me that Monica was stiff, going fast in the car; she was scared," George Chavez said.

Randy and Crystal Stollsteimer and their children
Randy and Crystal Stollsteimer and their children (credit: CBS)

George Chavez told jurors even though his wife experienced two prior medical episodes -- one in 2006 and another in 2011 -- he never thought they were seizures, but rather fainting spells from exhaustion.

The prosecution plans to call 20 witnesses during the trial, including five doctors. They say doctors instructed Chavez to see a neurologist and not drive until deemed safe and that she ignored that advice. They believe the accident was preventable.

"This case not about whether she's a good person or bad person. It's about information that she was armed with on Feb. 17, 2011, and how she chose to act given that information," prosecutor Tiffany Sorice said.

The defense team says Chavez did nothing wrong.

"No doctor will tell you that she should not have been driving five years after something they never called a seizure," defense attorney Megan Downing said. "She was told she was fine and that's why she was in the car that day."

Stollsteimer family members told CBS4 it was difficult sitting in the courtroom hearing the details of their loved ones final living moments.

The trial will continue Wednesday morning in Brighton.

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