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Richardson Ordered to Trial for Murder in Car-Surfing Death

Judge upholds all charges as officer testimony reveals that drinking and drug use preceded the death of Allison Meadows in June

A night of drinking and drug use led up to a high-speed “car surfing” incident earlier this year that left a 26-year-old Santa Barbara woman dead and her companion seriously injured, according to California Highway Patrol officers who testified Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Those allegations — including many details not previously made public — came out on the third and final day of Lanie Tyrone Richardson’s preliminary hearing, which ended with the 28-year-old Santa Barbara man being ordered to stand trial for second-degree murder and several other felony charges stemming from the death of Allison Meadows.

Prosecutors alleged that Richardson, who has a lengthy record of DUI offenses, was under the influence and behind the wheel of an SUV in the early-morning hours of June 6 while Meadows and her friend, Lindsay Keebler, 25, were riding on the hood, engaging in a thrill-seeking activity known as car surfing.

With the vehicle traveling in excess of 70 mph, according to CHP estimates, the two women were ejected onto East Valley Road in Montecito.

Meadows died of major head injuries and Keebler was seriously injured in the incident.

At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Jean M. Dandona ruled that enough evidence had been presented by prosecutors to warrant a trial for Richardson on all the charges filed against him, 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.

If convicted of second-degree murder, Richardson would face up to 15 years to life in prison, a fine as high as $10,000, and a “strike” on his record under the state’s “Three Strikes” law. Additional prison time and fines could be tacked on for the other charges.

Tuesday’s testimony came from CHP officers who had various roles in the investigation.

CHP Sgt. Andrew Chapman reported that Connor Clowers, a fourth person in the vehicle that night, told him that Richardson, as well as the women and Clowers himself, were under the influence of cocaine before the incident.

Officer Craig Rude, a CHP investigator, testified that Richardson was driving anywhere from 70 to 92 mph based on CHP’s reconstruction of the accident.

Black scuff marks on the pavement from Meadows’ boots indicated her body rolled 231 feet from where she initially hit the pavement after flying off the vehicle’s hood, the officer testified.

Keebler, Richardson and Clowers initially told investigators that they had never met, and that the women had been victims of a hit-and-run incident that morning when the men stopped to take them to the hospital.

Chapman spoke about interviewing Clowers several times, and testified that Clowers admitted to lying to law enforcement about not knowing Meadows and Keebler when they talked to him the morning of the accident.

Chapman said that Clowers had recounted leaving Whiskey Richards, a State Street bar, with Richardson, Keebler and Meadows the night before, and that Richardson had driven as the women car surfed downtown on Arrellaga Street on the way to a party.

Chapman also interviewed several witnesses in a nearby apartment complex, who said they saw the two women on the hood of the SUV.

One witness observed a woman matching Meadows’s description fall off the hood onto a grassy area, and saw Keebler help her back onto the hood, Chapman testified, adding that the vehicle backed out and accelerated rapidly, and the tires screeched as it moved back onto Arrellaga Street.

The party that the group was on its way to was hosted by an employee from Whiskey Richards, and Clowers also told law enforcement that all four of them did lines of cocaine after they arrived at the gathering.

After leaving, according to Clowers statement to Chapman, someone suggested they go to “the bump” — a portion of elevated roadway in Montecito known for car surfing — and said Richardson drove them there.

The women climbed through the sun roof and sat on the hood, and the first several times they drove over the bump, Clowers said he believed they were going about 40 mph. 

Clowers stated he protested the car surfing and got out of the vehicle, Chapman said, but got back in when he believed they were done.

Someone came up with the idea to do it one more time, Chapman said, and Clowers recalled Keebler telling Richardson to go faster.

Clowers recalled the vehicle hitting high speeds and the women lifting off the hood and becoming airborne, then seeing them land on the roadway in the rearview mirror.

Chapman also said he interviewed Keebler, who confirmed the drug and alcohol use at the party to law enforcement, and that the group left the party around 4 a.m.

Keebler stated that on the way to the Bump, Richardson said, “I need to do a line,” and they pulled over on Highway 192. 

Clowers cut lines of cocaine for himself, Richardson and Meadows, but Keebler said that she did not partake that time.

After the incident, Keebler also said that Clowers was upset because he had a bag of cocaine and he wanted to get rid of it, and that he dumped the drugs before arriving at the hospital that morning.

Richardson also had a prescription for several anti-depressants, including Zoloft, and another officer confirmed that the mixture of alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs would seriously impair anyone trying to drive.

Prosecutor Von Nguyen pointed out to the judge that Richardson had signed a “Watson waiver” during his previous DUIs, acknowledging he could be charged with murder if he killed anyone while being under the influence.

But Rafael Amezaga, Richardson’s attorney, argued that not only was there no evidence for malice on Richardson’s part, but also no proof he was under the influence.

“It is not Mr. Richardson who is the superseding factor,” he said. “It is that these women get on top of this vehicle and make a reckless decision.”

“And so as the driver of the vehicle your client has no responsibility?” Dandona said.

“Yes and no,” Amezaga said. “Should he have known better? You would think so… However, you’ve got a young woman who has just driven over the bridge at 30 to 40 mph, and says, ‘Go faster.’ They’re all in this together.”

Nguyen countered that Richardson was in control of the vehicle all night, and could easily have refused to go faster.

“What did he do? He accelerated to a minimum of 70 mph,” she said. “There is really no outcome other than death, and that clearly shows implied malice.”

Nguyen also said that the lack of evidence was because of Richardson’s actions.

“He led officers on a wild goose chase…,” she said. “People were running around in different directions.”

Richardson’s remains at Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

He was ordered to return to court Sept. 20 for arraignment.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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