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Local News

Arraignment Delayed for Driver in Fatal Car-Surfing Incident in Montecito

Lanie Tyrone Richardson is scheduled to return to court Thursday, after a public defender is appointed for him

A 28-year-old Santa Barbara man facing a murder charge for his alleged role in a deadly vehicle incident in Montecito earlier this month made his first court appearance Wednesday, but his arraignment was delayed so a public defender could be appointed for him.

Lanie Tyrone Richardson is facing second-degree murder and other felony counts stemming from what sources have confirmed to Noozhawk was a “car surfing” accident.

Lanie Tyrone Richardson
Lanie Tyrone Richardson

Richardson was the driver of a Toyota 4-Runner involved in the East Valley Road incident on June 6, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Allison Meadows, 26, of Santa Barbara suffered fatal injuries in the incident, which occurred sometime between 5 and 5:30 a.m., according to the CHP.

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

Richardson, wearing orange jail-issued clothing and standing in a glassed-in holding area, appeared briefly before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson. The judge permitted media cameras in the courtroom for the hearing, but would not allow Richardson’s face to be shown.

Richardson had been represented by attorney Steven Andrade, but he withdrew from the case, which will now be assigned to the Public Defender’s Office.

With family and friends of both Richardson and the victims looking on, Anderson ordered the parties to return to court Thursday for Richardson’s arraignment.

Andrade said after the hearing that because of the serious nature of the charges — including a second-degree murder count — Richardson could not afford private representation.

Another private attorney, Joshua Webb, said before the hearing that he had offered to represent Richardson pro bono — without charge — but wanted the county to pay the extensive investigation and related costs. Webb said he made that request Wednesday morning to Judge Brian Hill but was turned down.

Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen, who is prosecuting Richardson, would not comment on the specifics of the case after the hearing.

Neither the District Attorney’s Office nor CHP 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.

Richardson was being held at the County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Prosecutors have 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.

“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.

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

Meadows’ former roommate, Janet Carroll, spoke with reporters briefly after Wednesday’s arraignment was postponed.

“It’s been two weeks and we’re all still numb from it,” Carroll said, adding that she had no insight about the mystery surrounding the case, and that she wasn’t sure how Richardson and Meadows came to know each other.

As the case proceeds, Carroll said she plans to attend the hearings and hopes the case will go before a jury.

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.

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

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 — or while showing a conscious disregard for human life — 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.

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.

Noozhawk Staff Writer Lara Cooper contributed to this report.

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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