General Crime

* Heather Ann Howell Charged with Alleged Murder in Crash that Killed Jesse Garcia in Santa Rosa

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The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office this afternoon  charged a Santa Rosa woman with murder in connection with a vehicle collision  that killed a Santa Rosa man Saturday afternoon. Heather Ann Howell, 28, did not enter a plea to murder and  reckless driving causing great bodily injury. She will be arraigned and have  a bail hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court Friday morning.  Howell is being held under no bail in the Sonoma County Jail.

The California Highway Patrol said Howell was chasing a man on a  Harley Davidson motorcycle in her 2001 Acura on Hall Road near Mancini Road  in unincorporated Sonoma County west of Santa Rosa around 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Her Acura struck a Lexus then a 1969 Triumph Spitfire driven by  56-year-old Jesse Garcia. The Triumph overturned and caught fire and Garcia  died at the scene. The CHP responded to the collision but turned the investigation  over to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office because it appeared the collision  might be an intentional, domestic violence incident, CHP Officer Jon Sloat  said.

Deputy District Attorney Anne Masterson would not comment on the  domestic violence possibility. She said the murder charge includes implied  malice based on the evidence and statements from witnesses, who are still  being interviewed. Masterson said the incident is still under investigation. Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Carlos Basurto said this afternoon  Howell and her ex-boyfriend, the motorcycle rider, had an argument. “He took off and she chased him,” Basurto said. The sheriff’s office is not identifying the man on the motorcycle  because he might be a victim of domestic violence. Basurto also said that the  man has been uncooperative with investigators.

Howell’s attorney Steve Spiegelman disputed law enforcement’s  account of the fatal collision.  “There’s no way this should be a murder case,” he said.  “It was a terrible accident and very unfortunate, but there’s got  to be a fall person,” Spiegelman said. He said Howell is very remorseful. “There’s no information this was a high-speed chase,” he said. Howell is a nursing student at Santa Rosa Junior College and has  been attending to her mother who “has a serious medical condition,”  Spiegelman said. “She’s been with her mother around the clock,” he said.

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