General Crime

* Santa Rosa Judge Enters Not-Guilty Plea On Behalf Of Woman Charged With Murder In Crash Case

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A Sonoma County Superior Court judge entered a not-guilty plea this morning on behalf of a woman charged with murder and reckless driving in connection with a crash last month that killed a Santa Rosa man. Heather Ann Howell’s attorney Steve Spiegelman told Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite he needed more time to review reports and evidence about the July 14 crash that killed 56-year-old Jesse Garcia, and requested that the plea entry be delayed. Thistlethwaite denied the request and entered the plea on Howell’s behalf to expedite the case.

The California Highway Patrol said that on the day of the crash, Howell was chasing a man on a Harley Davidson motorcycle in her 2001 Acura on Hall Road near Mancini Road west of Santa Rosa at about 4:45 p.m. Her Acura struck a Lexus and then a 1969 Triumph driven by Garcia. The Triumph overturned and caught fire, and Garcia died at the scene. Court documents identified the motorcyclist as 45-year-old Charles Kraus, whom Howell had dated. The CHP turned the investigation over to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office soon after the crash because it appeared the incident involved a domestic violence dispute.

Deputy District Attorney Anne Masterson asked the judge this morning to schedule a conditional examination of the two people in their 80s who were in the Lexus. Masterson said both of them are considered essential witnesses in the case and that she wants them to testify before a preliminary hearing or trial because of their age. A date for them to testify will be set Friday. Howell is being held without bail in Sonoma County Jail.

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