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Murder Charge Filed Against Suspect in Montecito ‘Car Surfing’ Fatality

Lanie Tyrone Richardson, 28, is facing second-degree homicide and other felony charges in death of Allison Meadows, injury of another woman

A 28-year-old Santa Barbara man was charged late Tuesday afternoon with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a woman who was fatally injured in a mysterious incident last week in Montecito, according to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

Lanie Tyrone Richardson
Lanie Tyrone Richardson

Neither the District Attorney’s Office nor the California Highway Patrol has provided any details of what happened, but sources confirmed to Noozhawk that the woman who was killed — and another who was seriously injured — definitely were involved in a dangerous activity called “car surfing” at the time.

Lanie Tyrone Richardson was the driver of a Toyota 4-Runner involved in the East Valley Road incident in the early morning hours of June 6, the CHP said. He was arrested Friday afternoon and was being held at the County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Allison Meadows, 26, of Santa Barbara, suffered fatal injuries in the incident involving Richardson’s SUV sometime between 5 and 5:30 a.m., according to the CHP.

The second woman, Lindsay Keebler, 25, of Santa Barbara, was seriously injured, but has been released from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed multiple felony charges against Richardson, including second-degree murder; manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence, causing great bodily injury to another person, and with prior DUI convictions; DUI causing serious bodily injury with prior DUI convictions; and driving with a license that has been suspended or revoked due to DUI, said Dudley, adding that Richardson has three previous DUI convictions.

Confirmation that this was a car surfing accident comes after a week of persistent reports and speculation about how the women came to be critically injured.

“Car surfing,” which has been popularized in movies such as Teen Wolf and Death Proof, involves passengers performing dangerous maneuvers while the vehicle is in motion. The thrill-seeking stunts include hanging out of the vehicle, as well as riding on the hood, roof or trunk.

The section of East Valley Road where the incident occurred is rumored to be called “The Bump,” and reportedly has long been a mecca for local car surfers.

Meadows suffered massive head injuries and died shortly after being brought to Cottage Hospital in a private vehicle by Richardson and another man, whose name has not been released. Both men initially were described by the CHP as “good Samaritans” who claimed they had found the injured women on the roadway east of Sheffield Drive. Apparently, no 9-1-1 calls were made to report the incident.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Richardson was driving the vehicle, the CHP said.

Meadows worked at a Santa Barbara medical office, and Keebler is employed at a high-tech firm in Goleta.

Richardson is being charged with what is known as a “Watson murder.” The term is derived from a 1981 California 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 rather than manslaughter.

At sentencing, defendants convicted of DUI must formally acknowledge that it is extremely dangerous to drive while under the influence, and that if they kill someone while driving under the influence, they can be charged with murder. Richardson has two recent felony DUI convictions, in 2010 and 2011, according to Superior Court records reviewed by Noozhawk. The records also show that he signed such a statement acknowledging the risks and consequences for driving while intoxicated.

Allison Meadows in a photo from her Facebook page.
Allison Meadows in a photo from her Facebook page.

Someone convicted of a Watson murder charge faces up to 15 years to life in prison, a fine as high as $10,000 and a “strike” on his or her record under the state’s “Three Strikes” law. Additional prison time and fines can be tacked on if others were injured in the incident.

Richardson has a long history of criminal problems, according to the court records, including arrests for DUI in March 2008, November 2010 and January 2011. He also has served time in state prison for cocaine-related offenses, and for having unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl, according to the court records.

The most recent Watson murder case locally involved Ashley Johnigan, who was convicted in 2009 of killing Laura Cleaves, a senior investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.

Johnigan, then 24, of Santa Barbara, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder for crashing her car head-on into a vehicle driven by Cleaves on Highway 154 near Santa Ynez in May 2008. Johnigan, who had previous DUI convictions, had been drinking heavily shortly before the crash, and had been warned not to get behind the wheel.

Richardson is due to be arraigned June 20, Dudley said.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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