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A popular retired Santa Ynez Valley Union High School teacher was killed Dec. 19 when a vehicle driven by a DUI suspect rear-ended her SUV near the Chumash Casino Resort and propelled it into the back of a third car. The driver who allegedly started the chain reaction is facing a murder charge, among other felonies.
Authorities told Noozhawk that Linda Wall, 68, of Buellton, was driving east on Highway 246 about 2:10 p.m. when she slowed for a red light at the intersection of Casino Drive. According to the California Highway Patrol, Rebecca Sandoval, 37, of Lompoc, was following at an unsafe speed and slammed her Jeep Wrangler into Wall's Toyota Highlander. The force of the impact drove the Highlander into the rear of an already stopped Chevy Equinox.
The CHP said the occupants of the Chevy Equinox — Simone Mikusova, 28, and her passenger, Michal Miklas, 54, both of the Slovak Republic — were rushed by AMR ambulance to Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries and released.
Sandoval, who was uninjured, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of DUI, and later charged with felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony driving under the influence of drugs causing bodily injury. On Dec. 23, the District Attorney's Office announced that a murder charge had been added, as well as a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of drugs arising from a separate incident in July.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley had told Noozhawk previously that Sandoval might face a "Watson murder" charge in the case. The term stems from a 1981 state Supreme Court case — People v. Watson — which established that, in some circumstances, a person who kills someone while driving under the influence can be charged with murder and/or manslaughter.
Defendants convicted in serious DUI cases typically sign a statement recognizing the risks of driving while intoxicated, and acknowledging they can be charged with murder in future DUI cases that result in death.
Wall had retired from Santa Ynez High in 2012 after 22 years as a popular Spanish and French teacher at the school, according to Principal Mark Swanitz.
A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 28 at Mission Santa Inés, 1760 Mission Drive in Solvang.
In the wake of her horrific death, Mallory Rae Dies' grief-stricken family and friends have thrown themselves behind a campaign to stop drinking and driving.
The 27-year-old Dies was struck by an alleged DUI driver as she crossed Anacapa Street in downtown Santa Barbara just after midnight on Dec. 6. Police say the suspect stopped briefly to survey the scene, then raced away. Minutes later, he crashed while attempting to make a high-speed turn onto Cabrillo Boulevard from State Street.
Dies was rushed to Cottage Hospital, but never regained consciousness. She died Dec. 11, hours after being taken off life support.
Raymond Morua, 32, an aide to Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, was arrested at the scene of the second collision and is facing charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death.
Ryan Todey, one of Dies' closest friends and a co-worker at Tonic nightclub, is among a small group exploring the idea of starting a foundation to promote the cause of not drinking and driving. They've been talking with taxi and bar owners to get them on board, and hope to be able to pay for cab rides for those who can't afford one.
"Our message to the adults is just get your butt in the cab," he told our Lara Cooper.
Having worked in downtown bars for the past seven years, Todey understands the inevitability of drunken driving but believes they can make a difference.
"We want people to enjoy their night," he said. "Eating, drinking enjoying the city, that's what Santa Barbara is about. But we also want people to do it responsibly."
Todey also admits he's driven when he should have called a cab.
"I'm guilty of it," he said. "We're all guilty of it."
While Todey and his mates reconcile those contradictions, they've already proven their ability to organize a successful benefit on very short notice. A Dec. 15 fundraiser at Blush pulled in around $27,000, with subsequent donations pushing the total above $40,000. Click here to make an online donation, or click here to email Todey for more information.
As Dies' friends try to wrestle some good out of her heartbreaking death, police investigators returned to the crash site to try to determine exactly what happened the night she was fatally injured.
Sgt. Riley Harwood said video footage from nearby businesses has helped with the crash reconstruction. Although Dies was not in the marked crosswalk as she walked across the street near Mac's Grog N Groc, 501 Anacapa St., he said she was crossing legally because of the positioning of the street's signalized traffic lights.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Dies' parents indicated they would be filing a claim with the House of Representatives over their daughter's death. Robert Stoll, an attorney with Stoll, Nussbaum & Polakov of Los Angeles, contends Morua was representing Capps in an official capacity the night of the collision.
Authorities say Morua blew a breath sample with a blood-alcohol content of .17, more than twice the legal limit at which a driver is presumed to be drunk. Police said he had started drinking several hours earlier at the Santa Barbara Independent's annual holiday party at The Savoy nightclub downtown, although the Independent and its supporters have been adamant that the weekly newspaper's party ended precisely at 9:30 p.m.
Three days after Morua's arrest, a spokesman for Capps announced that he had been fired from his $37,000-a-year job. She later announced that background checks would be conducted on all of her staff members after it was revealed that Morua had a criminal record, including two previous DUI convictions and a hit-and-run incident.
One of the worst bottlenecks on the 1,550-mile Highway 101 between San Diego and Port Angeles, Wash., is a three-mile squeeze through Montecito.
For years, Caltrans and its partner, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, have been squabbling with each other and with two Montecito citizens groups that have their own vision for El Camino Real. A bureaucratic resolution may be near, but don't be surprised if it results in a lawsuit that further prolongs the agony of anyone trapped in the "Montecito crawl."
As our Giana Magnoli reported Dec. 22 in a Noozhawk exclusive, Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty has recommended that the South Coast Highway 101 HOV Project move forward as originally envisioned. His announcement dismisses the relentless arguments that the Montecito Association and another community group, Common Sense 101 Coalition, have been making in an effort to keep left-side entrance and exit ramps at Cabrillo Boulevard and Sheffield Drive.
Caltrans maintains that left-side ramps are not a viable option, and are effectively stalling construction of a third, carpool lane in either direction on Highway 101.
“Left-side ramps are not consistent with modern engineering standards, do not meet driver expectation, and cannot be retained due to safety and operational reasons,” Dougherty wrote to the parties involved in the standoff.
In the letter, a copy of which Noozhawk obtained Dec. 21, Dougherty said Caltrans and SBCAG are at a “critical juncture” on the road to approval of the project, which is intended to relieve congestion in the crowded South Coast area.
SBCAG will discuss the letter and the project’s future at its Jan. 16 meeting.
A Santa Barbara man has been arrested on multiple felony charges stemming from a child molestation investigation that turned up as many as three alleged victims, dating back to as early as 1975.
Jose Hurtado, 59, is behind bars at the Santa Barbara County Jail following his arrest on suspicion of continuous sexual abuse of a child, sexual abuse of a child, kidnap to commit rape, false imprisonment, and assault with the intent to commit certain felonies, according to Sgt. Riley Harwood, an SBPD spokesman.
Harwood said officers were investigating a report of a child molestation when they discovered the situation to be even worse than they feared.
"They contacted a teenage girl who advised that she had been the victim of repeated sexual abuse by Hurtado beginning when she was 10 years old," Harwood said. "The abuse took place during 2006 and 2007 at a time when the victim and her parents lived with Hurtado."
He said the investigation revealed two additional alleged victims, both of whom said the abuse started when they were 14, one in 1975 and the other in 1996. Both women said they and their families also were living with Hurtado at the time, Harwood said.
Hurtado was arrested Dec. 19 at his residence in the 700 block of Cook Avenue near San Andres Street on the Lower Westside. Bail was set at $1 million.
Sonos, the homegrown wireless audio manufacturer founded in Santa Barbara in 2002, has added 170 employees over the last 18 months and is rapidly running out of workspace. Rather than relocate to a larger facility in Goleta, company officials have decided that downtown Santa Barbara is a critical part of the Sonos identity.
With visions of an "urban campus" in mind, our Gina Potthoff reported that Sonos has leased three downtown buildings totaling more than 100,000 square feet. After extensive renovations in 2014, the company's 270 employees will move into 25 E. Mason St. in the Funk Zone (a soon-to-be-vacated Brooks Institute campus), 419 State St. and 614 Chapala St. (currently home to Samy's Camera).
“The downtown lifestyle of Santa Barbara is a part of our culture,” said Ingvar Meijers, senior director global market development, real estate and facilities.
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With Santa Claus back at the North Pole after a long night's work, I can safely show you video proof of how he gets the job done. No wonder it'll be almost a year before he reappears.
(Ronnie Street Stunts video)
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.