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Rohnert Park Reacts to Fatal Accident

Residents are trying to get the crosswalk where a two-year-old girl was killed lit up.

When Warner Hepsley, 75, saw the aftermath of the fatal accident that killed 2-year-old Calli Murray and injured her mother, Ling Murray, on Dec. 1, he knew he had to do something. Hepsley rushed outside around 6 p.m. — the accident happened just minutes before at the intersection of Snyder Lane and Medical Center Drive. Flares lined the road and ambulance sirens blared.

"I'm out there every day gathering signatures to take to the City Council next week," Hepsley said. "The petition is to get the city to listen. We want to slow traffic and help let people know there's a crosswalk there."

Hepsley has gathered 150 signatures so far. He said he's been fighting that intersection for years.

The Murrays were returning to their Rohnert Park home from nearby Sunrise Park and were in the crosswalk, about 11 feet from the curb when they were hit by a 1997 Honda. The driver was Sonoma State Freshman and star volleyball player Kaitlyn Dunaway, 18, said Sgt. Jeff Nicks of the Rohnert Park Public Safety Department.

"That intersection is dangerous, it's dark and cars don't stop," Hepsley said. "When I take my granddaughter to Sunrise Park, sometimes cars don't even stop when we're in the middle of the crosswalk, and we have to back up."

"That is a very dark place where that little girl and her mother got hit," he said.            

Diane Cook lives on Jasmine Circle, a small cul-de-sac adjacent to Sunrise Park. She's lived in Rohnert Park for 32 years.

"That is one of the most dangerous intersections in town," she said. "I walk my dog there every day, and I regularly stand there for more than five minutes before anybody recognizes that I'm standing there. You have to be really careful crossing there."

"I have compassion for the girl who hit that little girl though," Cook said. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone."

Hepsley agreed.

"I hurt for that young girl, the volleyball star," he said.

Dunaway might have been using her cell phone at the time of the collision," Nicks said.

Investigators got a search warrant yesterday for her cell phone records from Verizon and should have them within a week or 10 days.

Nicks said he's unsure if she was sending a text message or talking on the phone, but there are no witnesses who saw Dunaway on the phone.

Ling Murray, 42, remains in a medically induced coma at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

The Accident

The driver of another car that stopped in the left turn lane on Snyder Lane preparing to turn onto Medical Center Drive witnessed the collision, Nicks said.

 The speed limit on Snyder Lane is 35 mph and Dunaway "was probably driving within the safe speed limit," Nicks said.

"We don't think speed was a factor," he said.

Dunaway was returning to Sonoma State University, where she is a freshman, after visiting her mother's Rohnert Park home.

"She was absolutely devastated and is still devastated," Nicks said.

The Department of Public Safety will determine the speed of the Honda and inspect it for any possible mechanical problems as part of the collision investigation, police said.

Police today also were checking whether businesses near the scene had surveillance camera video of the collision. Police hope to submit reports to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office within the next 10 days.

The district attorney's office will decide whether charges will be filed against Dunaway.

 At least one volunteer, dressed in a vest and carrying a stop sign, has been escorting pedestrians across the intersection this week.

Nicks said he is unaware of any plans for the city to install a stop sign or traffic light at the intersection.

He said at any uncontrolled intersection, it is incumbent on pedestrians and drivers to be "hyper-vigilant" and aware of their surroundings.

"Just because we are walking in a crosswalk doesn't mean we own it — and drivers need their total attention when they're on the road," Nicks said.

Editor's note: Rohnert Park Patch is launching a series of stories that profiles dangerous intersections throughout the city. Log in and post a comment to let us know what should be on that list.

Portions of this report came from Bay City News Service. Kendall Fedor also contributed to this report.

Brian Hamby December 08, 2010 at 07:22 PM
Great article. Such a sad story. All I can think about is how awful it will be for the mother when she wakes up. Here's to hoping the intersection can become safer soon.
Melanie December 09, 2010 at 05:02 AM
After all the problems the intersection has faced one would think that somebody would have taken care of lighting it and making it more noticeable years ago.
Nick Walden December 10, 2010 at 07:23 AM
Our thoughts and prayers are with both families. And we truly hope that something can be done to make that intersection safer.
Me in Rohnert Park December 14, 2010 at 09:11 PM
I lost my daughter Galli Pena four months ago, similar way.

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