A Rohnert Park teen, in a Rohnert Park crosswalk while allegedly sending a text message on her phone, was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter today.
Kaitlyn Dunaway, 18, allegedly caused the death of Calli Murray by texting while driving, driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions and failing to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.
Ravitch said a misdemeanor charge was filed because the alleged driving offenses do not amount to felonies.
The accident has garnered a storm of media coverage, specifically because a band of Rohnert Park residents say the issue is bigger than the tragic death of a little girl. , and they want .
"The enrie law enforcement community is concerned about getting the message out that drivers shouldn’t text and drive," said Assistant District Attorney Christine Cook. "What seems like a few seconds of distraction can have lasting impact and can result in tragedy."
Dunaway, a Sonoma State University student, was issued a citation to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Ravitch said.
According to Cook, Dunaway faces a maximum of one year imprisonment.
The collision at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 also injured the girl's mother, Ling Murray, 42, who also was in the crosswalk at Snyder Lane and Medical Center Drive in Rohnert Park.
She suffered major injuries and was in a hospital, then a rehabilitation facility, until early March.
"This is a tragic case," Ravitch said in a news release. "The Murrays will forever mourn the loss of their young daughter."
Ravitch said Dunaway is presumed innocent unless and until she is proven guilty.
"Without regard to the facts or outcome of this case, it bears repeating that driving while texting is a dangerous and real threat to every member of our community. Drivers, passengers and bystanders are all at risk," Ravitch said.
Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jeff Nicks said in December that Dunaway acknowledged she was using her Verizon phone at the time of the collision but she was unsure if she was texting or talking on the phone.
A headset that would have enabled hands-free phone use was not found in Dunaway's 1997 Honda, Nicks said.
Murray and her daughter were returning to their Rohnert Park home from nearby Sunrise Park. They were walking east on Snyder Lane in the crosswalk approximately 11 feet from the curb when they were struck by the Honda on their left, Nicks said.
Nicks said speed was not a factor in the crash.
Dunaway, a freshman, was returning to Sonoma State University after visiting her mother's home and was devastated after the crash, Nicks said.
Jeff Murray simply said "finally" on his Facebook page today after news broke.
This article is by Angela Hart and Bay City News. Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.