[Verdict April 12, 2010] The driver who killed Drake Okusako plead guilty, and received a 4-year prison sentence. “On March 1 he (Segebartt) entered guilty pleas before Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini to the leaving the scene charge and a reduced negligent homicide charge” Continue reading [verdict] Fatality in Tucson — driver was reportedly “weaving”
Michael Gray (Michael Gordon Gray), 43, died Sunday April 12, 2009 when a suspected impaired driver killed him at 3PM traveling along Maricopa Road nearby the access road to the Koli Equestrian Center. GRIC (Gila River Indian Community) police say they suspect the motorist may have been under the influence.
Here is near where the collision occurred. Maricopa Road is a fast (posted 50MPH) two-lane rural highway — one narrow lane in each direction, there is a shoulder stripe and perhaps a foot or so of irregular asphalt and lots of gravel
In the several months that have passed, I am looking for updates on the status of the investigation. From what I gather, sometimes but not always, serious crimes on the reservation go to federal jurisdiction, see e.g. Sacaton man gets 27 years in killing of Gilbert bicyclist (more detail in the DoJ press release). Here’s some more explanations, see “Role of Gila River Indian Community Justice System”, from meeting minutes of the Arizona State, Tribal, and Federal Court Forum.
I spoke with Sgt. Hilario Tanakeyowma of GRIC PD (GRIC PD main number — I had some difficulties finding this — (520)562-7139, x7122). in mid-March 2010 and he confirmed that the defendant is in custody and was charged with manslaughter.
Case is CR2009-007876 in Maricopa County Superior Court, all case minutes . Strangely, when I looked this up in mid-March, the case was sealed for some reason(?). In any event David Allen Wiechens, Sr. plead guilty to manslaughter. Sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2010. This carries a presumptive sentence of 10.5 years (13-704 , dangerous, non-repetitive). On April 30, for unknown reasons, sentencing was “continued” to 06/18/2010 at 8:30 a.m.
Sentencing then did occur on 6/18, minute entry here. (I had missed this bit about a prior felony: “reflect one prior felony conviction and not zero”). Defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $8,019.28 restitution to the victim’s parents, and his driver’s license was revoked.
Aftermath: The defendant’s PCR was not granted and seems to have been exhausted as of 6/18/2013. There’s a minute entry in early 2011 noting that “restitution as previously
ordered by the Court has been paid in full by Defendant’s insurance company”. Wiechens apparently passed away (presumably while incarcerated?) sometime around 2015.
Arizona Crash Report
This is ADOT incident=2290572. I don’t have FARS data loaded up for 2009.
I obtained a copy of the full crash and departmental report # 09-14619 from GRIC PD. The report written by Officer M. Evins appears to be of very high quality, with several lucid pages of narrative and witness statements. The manner of collision is not at all what I had imagined. There were three cyclists traveling together; but they were not physically together. They were each separated by ~ 50 yards, and they were all riding to the right of the fog line, on the very small paved shoulder. Wiechans passed the first two without incident, after passing the second cyclist he inexplicably swerved sharply, thus striking and killing Gray. Wiechan’s statement was that he saw two cyclists only and then heard a loud bang. There were many witnesses; in addition to the two cyclists who were not struck, the driver and passenger of a car traveling behind Wiechens also saw the whole thing. Wiechans, up until the fatal swerve, did not appear to be driving erratically, according to witnesses behind him. There is a hypotheses put forward by the investigating officer about the fatal swerve: “It is believed that David (Wiechans) was drinking from the open Bud Light bottle while he was driving and possibly spilled it in his lap when the collision occurred because I observed a fairly large wet spot in the right groin area of his pants”.
Other issues: according to the report the vehicle involved was purchases just a few days before the crash; and that it had no insurance. The investigating officer found an “…Admin per se suspension in the open center console dated 1/2/09 at 2032 hours at a location in PCSO’s jurisdiction with BAC results of .171 and .164 which was impounded as evidence”. In addtion to GRIC PD, a DPS Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) was called in, and blood was drawn.Though alcohol was clearly involved, the suspect was not apparently particularly drunk, though other impairment was suspected. Any results are not in the crash report — but presumably figured heavily into the criminal case. Continue reading Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road
A cyclist was killed in Phoenix Friday night; this area is west of the airport and just north of I-17. The victim was later identified: “Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said 70-year-old Lorenzo Nevares was riding on 7th Avenue just north of Interstate 17 when he was struck around 8:30 p.m” [abc15]
the Arizona Daily Star is reporting a fatality in Green Valley (near Tucson),
Green Valley cyclist, 84 killed in vehicle collision.
It is very unusual for police (in this case the Pima County Sheriff’s Office) to cite immediately. The normal pattern in fatal collisions (see e.g. Allen Johnson) is nothing gets issued, a lengthy investigation (most of elapsed time is due to waiting on tox results) is conducted, after which the prosecutor declines to file criminal charges, and finally traffic citations are issued. Will there be no further investigation? Seems hasty. Entry at tucsonbikelawyer.com also see zero-citations-so-far-for-three-foot-passing-rule-in-tucson-this-year for interesting facts about just how rare citations for 28-735 are.
The case was settled for only $254 in fines, covering two citations, according to the GV News “David Armstrong, 76, of Green Valley, pleaded responsible to ‘overtaking bicycles – fatal,’ and ‘driving in the bike lane’ and was fined $140.50 and $113.50 respectively”. No word as to why the fine for violating §28-735 , which carries a fine of “up to” $1,000, was settled for far less — not that it really makes much difference, but after all what’s the point of having enhanced penalties for more serious outcomes if the judge/magistrate doesn’t apply it? It was Case number TR-20091755 in Green Valley Justice court.
I have no idea how the fines are arrived at. The fine schedule according to the list for ddp (but defensive driving school isn’t an option, I’m just using it to look up court fees), for Green Valley is $120 court fee plus $40 state fee. Perhaps that is where the $140.50 comes from? Which I suppose means the “enhanced” part if it is $0.
Here is a google maps street view of N Desert Bell Drive. It appears to be a full-up bike lane; albeit with “old” bike lane signs and the diamond markings. the street view when I checked it in March of 2012 was dated April 2008, so I don’t know if it’s been updated with the new MUTCD 2003 signs/markings.
By Alexis Huicochea
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.03.2009
An 84-year-old bicyclist died this morning after he was struck by a car in Green Valley.
Jerome Featherman was riding south on North Desert Bell Drive, near West Calle de Oro, at 9:38 a.m. when a motorist drove into the bike lane and hit him, said Deputy Dawn Barkman, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.
Featherman was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, she said.
The driver of the car – David Armstrong, 76 – was given a citation on suspicion of violation of the three-foot passing rule causing death and driving in a bike path.
The three-foot passing rule states that when passing a bicycle that is going in the same direction, a motorist has to leave a safe distance between the vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the vehicle is safely past the bicycle.
Another bicyclist fatality, the fourth fatal Phoenix metro area hit-and-run in just over two months.
See Phoenix hit-and-runs disturbingly similar for a rundown on the other three.
According to MCSO, on 8/15/2009 ~2am three cyclists were EB on Ocotillo Rd ne
ar 228th St, the motorist was WB in the EB lane — i.e. head on. The motorist fled the scene and MCSO later arrested Gary Foshe, 53. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) provides police services to the town of Queen Creek. The name of the suspect is probably actually Gary Lynn Foshee — there is a 53 year old by that name with a civil traffic case in justice court June
of this year (is that in addition to the DUI in Scottsdale 2006, mentioned in the EV Trib article below?).
There are some pictures of a roadside memorial at queencreekevolves. The victim’s name was Russell Jenkins. Pics of the ghostbike memorial here, and here. Continue reading Queen Creek hit-and-run; driver arrested
Avid cyclist, and Tuscon police officer (off duty) Allen Johnson was killed March 10, 2009 in the afternoon. Continue reading Allen Johnson
There has been a third fatal hit-and-run in Phoenix, the third within two months — one in June, one in July and one (so far) in August.
Just after midnight this past Saturday, 52 year old cyclist Charles Waldrop was killed by a hit and run driver who witnesses say was driving at a high rate of speed and swerving. Police say an anonymous tip lead to the apprehension and arrest of 23 y.o. Timothy Kissida after he traded (via the “Cash for Clunkers” program) a light blue 1992 BMW 325i w/damage consistent with hit-and-run. He was booked into the Maricopa County jail and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal collision and tampering with evidence. (KPHO, abc15, azcentral) (CAzBike blog). According to case minutes from 04/08/2010 “The parties anticipate that this matter will resolve prior to Trial.”. Kissida was ultimately sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.
This is disturbingly similar to another incident just 4 weeks ago; also in Phoenix, also in the early morning hours of Saturday, also hit-and-run. In that case, though, police apprehended and was arrested someone soon after the collision. See South Phoenix Hit-and-run for details on that incident.
There was a third nighttime hit-and-run fatality in Phoenix back in June, see Driver confesses to hit-and-run killing
As a note on media coverage; something I normally have complaints about, I have to give credit where it is due — The azcentral.com (and abc15.com carried the same quotes), sourced to police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson was unambiguous: “The cyclist, 52, was riding home from work and was in full compliance with the bicycle laws. He was riding with a bike light and a rear flashing light in the bike lane.” In the June fatality, police said “Police say that Thompson was riding his bike legally”.
Recap of the Criminal Cases
Index to the three, with outcomes, all drivers were caught and were subsequently convicted of various crimes, though the outcome varied quite a bit:
- June incident: driver worked a plea for simple hit-and-run; very brief sentence. Presumably because there was apparently no impairment.
- July incident: driver went to a full trial — found guilty of neg hom among other crimes. Was sentenced to 6 year PLUS a consecutive 3.5 years for the hit-and-run (VERY unusual) — this seems to be his “punishment” for going to trial vs. working a plea deal.
- August incident: driver plead to manslaughter and got 10.5 years. due to plea deal, the hit-and-run he also plead to netted no incarceration.
Marcello Rojas, 43, the driver of a 2006 BMW was stopped for speeding June 9 ~ 10pm — this is unrelated to the crash. At that time he told police “he hit a guy on a bicycle”. According to police the victim, Billy Ray Thompson, was riding westbound on Broadway “perfectly legally” which i took to mean, but the story doesn’t elaborate, that he was properly lighted/reflectored. No dui is suspected.
This is one of a chain of similar fatal hit-and-runs in Phoenix that occurred in summer of 2009.
Superior Court Docket, case number CR2009-138233. According to the minute entry on 2/9/2010 Rojas plead guilty to hit-and-run w/death and was sentenced to 7 weeks in county jail with credit for 52 days already served (which i take to mean, he’s done with jail already); and a year probation.
According to the minute entry that went over the plea deal; apparently by pleading he got 28-661 knocked down to a class 3 felony (leaving the scene of a fatality that was not his fault. Versus a class 2 if it was his fault). Then, for whatever reason, for the purposes of sentencing this is considered a “non dangerous” offense. Which I guess is why it comes with such a piddly sentence.
Avid Ahwatukee cyclist Gerald Hickman was killed when he struck a parked utility truck on Dec 20, 2008 mid-morning. Continue reading Ahwatukee cyclist killed in collision with parked truck
This is remarkable only in that the county attorney sought negligent homicide charges…
From an earlier azcentral story “On May 2, 2007, Mejia was arrested after deputies obtained a search warrant and gathered evidence from a Ford F-350 pickup truck linked to the hit-and-run suspect” . The article doesn’t mention any allegations of evidence tampering(?).
Arizona Superior Court Docket CR2007-006287, All case minutes. Here’s the Warrant to search the large 2007 pickup truck involved. Sentencing Minute from 6/17/2008 — I guess fairly standard, the charges are deemed “non-dangerous” and thus you can get a light sentence the negligent homicide is an F4 (class 4 felony; smaller number are more serious). One oddity was the hit-and-run was listed as an F3, whereas it should have been an F2 (because the defendant clearly caused the collision by driving on the wrong side of the road).
There are a lot of case minutes, including a request to be released early from probation, and numerous requests to revoke probation; finally in the 4/18/2014 minute “Defendant admits violation of probation for condition 1” (whatever that is, i can’t find it in the sentencing minute). It doesn’t seem like anything bad happened.
Mejia TR-200701627 speeding 2/28/2007 in Avondale Muni; dismissed w/driving school; a couple of months before he caused the fatal crash.
Avondale man gets 3 years in cyclist’s hit-run death
Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)-June 20, 2008
Author: Brent Whiting, The Arizona Republic
An 18-year-old Avondale man has been sentenced to three years in prison for killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run traffic crash.
Victor Manuel Mejia, who pleaded guilty to charges of negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a serious injury accident, also was placed on a five-year probationary term.
The sentence was handed down last Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court after relatives of Mejia and the victim, Bob Walmsley, were offered a chance to address the judge.
Walmsley, 65, of Sun City West, was killed April 9, 2007, while he and other cyclists were pedaling on 99th Avenue in the Southwest Valley, south of Interstate 10 near Southern Avenue.
He was hit by the driver of a pickup truck who was traveling north on 99th Avenue and was trying to pass another vehicle. The driver fled after striking Walmsley, according to sheriff’s investigators.
On May 2, 2007, Mejia was arrested after deputies obtained a search warrant and gathered evidence from a Ford F-350 pickup truck linked to the hit-and-run suspect.
Walmsley, a cycling enthusiast, moved to Arizona in 2000 after retiring in California as an engineer and computer programmer.