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Anger, Alcohol Led to Fatal July Crash According to Santa Rosa CHP Officer

A Santa Rosa woman whose boyfriend had admitted to cheating on her was DUI when she caused a crash that killed a Windsor man, a Santa Rosa area CHP officer tesitifed.

A Santa Rosa woman charged with murder and reckless driving for a crash that killed a Windsor man in July allegedly chased after her boyfriend's motorcycle after he admitted to cheating on her, a California Highway Patrol officer testified in Sonoma County Superior Court this morning.

Heather Howell, 29, also was drinking alcohol the day of the crash, and had just visited her mother in the hospital, CHP Officer James Clevenger testified at Howell's preliminary hearing.

Clevenger testified that he spoke with Howell's boyfriend, Tony Kraus, shortly after the crash that killed 56-year-old Jesse Garcia on Hall Road near Irwin Lane west of Santa Rosa the afternoon of July 14.

Kraus was initially reluctant to say how the crash happened, and was being protective of Howell and appeared nervous and cautious, Clevenger said.

"He said he didn't want to incriminate her," Clevenger said.

But Kraus began crying when he looked toward Garcia's Triumph convertible sports car, which had overturned onto its roof and caught fire on the west side of Hall Road, Clevenger said.

"He said Heather was drinking alcohol earlier in the day, he admitted cheating on her, and her mother was in the hospital," Clevenger said.

Kraus told him that the combination of events made Howell "explode" and that she chased after his motorcycle in her Acura on westbound Hall Road, Clevenger testified.

According to Clevenger, Kraus said he could see Howell's Acura coming up quickly behind him, so he swerved over to the eastbound lane to avoid being hit.

Kraus said Howell's Acura then struck a Lexus driving in front of her and also struck Garcia' Triumph, which was in front of the Lexus, Clevenger testified.

The driver of the Lexus, Robert Tuttle, 89, testified at a previous hearing that a car had struck the right side of his vehicle. He said he didn't see which car had hit him, but he thought it was the car that overturned and caught fire.

Howell's attorney Stephen Spiegelman questioned Clevenger's account of the crash and asked that Clevenger's testimony about what Kraus said be stricken from the record. Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite denied the request.

Clevenger said another CHP Officer talked to Howell about the crash, and that Howell said she tried to drive around a car in front of her that slowed down to turn into a driveway.

According to Clevenger, Howell told the CHP officer she then clipped the driver's side of a Lexus that was coming toward her, then pulled to the right shoulder and saw the collision happen behind her.

Howell's account did not match up with the CHP investigation of the crash, Clevenger said.

A paramedic drew blood from Howell as she sat in back of an ambulance at the crash scene because a CHP officer smelled alcohol on her breath, Clevenger testified. The results of the blood test were not disclosed.

The hearing continues this afternoon and Tuesday if necessary.

--- Bay City News

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