The owner of a Santa Cruz bus company was arrested today on manslaughter charges in the death of a woman who fell out of a party bus onto state Highway 17 near Los Gatos last July, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Jon Reno St. James, 56, was arrested by the California Highway Patrol at his residence in San Bernardino County after he was indicted on vehicular and voluntary manslaughter charges by a grand jury in San Jose, Supervising District Attorney Brian Welch said.
The Santa Clara County grand jury handed down the indictment on May 3 after listening to a case presented by Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker, Welsh said. Following the secret proceedings, a Superior Court judge issued a bench warrant for St. James, owner of Party Bus of Santa Cruz, and set his bail at $100,000, Welch said. The CHP officers took St. James into custody at his home in the unincorporated town of Yucca Valley and booked him into the San Bernardino Central Jail in San Bernardino, Welsh said.
On July 27, 2012, 25-year-old Natasha Noland was killed when she fell out of St. James’ limousine-style “party bus” vehicle onto Highway 17 near state Highway 9 during a fight with a 20-year-old woman shortly before midnight. The vehicle, holding about a dozen people, was returning to Santa Cruz from a Brad Paisley concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View when Noland and the other woman got into a fight and the side door opened, spilling them onto the highway.
Noland died but the other passenger survived. The grand jury concluded that St. James was grossly negligent in maintaining the vehicle to ensure the safety of passengers, said Welch, who supervises the district attorney’s homicide team. The Superior Court judge who issued bench warrant will soon set a date for St. James to be arraigned on the charges in San Jose, Welch said. St. James faces a sentence of up to six years in prison if he is convicted, according to the district attorney’s office.
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