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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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