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Murder Charge Filed Against Driver Who Killed 91-Year-Old Pedestrian in Santa Barbara

Nicholas Burnell Hart Click to view larger
Nicholas Burnell Hart

Murder charges have been filed against the alleged DUI driver who authorities say was responsible for the death of a 91-year-old pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle while crossing State Street in downtown Santa Barbara last week.

In an amended criminal complaint, Nicholas Burnell Hart, 26, of Goleta was charged with second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs causing injury, with the special allegation that death was caused, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

He also was charged with driving on a suspended license.

Hart, who is being held without bail at Santa Barbara County Jail, was arraigned Thursday in Santa Barbara Superior Court, but did not enter a plea, according to Deputy District Attorney Wesley Meyer.

Hart was ordered to return to court on Feb. 15.

George Theodore "Ted" Johnson was crossing State Street at Micheltorena Street in a crosswalk at about 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Hart, according to Santa Barbara police.

Johnson, a resident of Casa Dorinda who had been evacuated due to the Montecito mudslides, was critically injured, and was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where he died Monday night, according to his family.

Ted Johnson Click to view larger
Ted Johnson

Hart, who police said has two prior convictions for driving under the influence and had a suspended license at the time of the collision, was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail, with bail originally set at $1 million.

Hart is being charged with what is known as a "Watson murder" under California law, Meyer said.

Watson charges can occur when a defendant who has at least one previous DUI conviction, and who has been warned of the risks of driving under the influence, commits DUI again and causes an accident that kills another person.

Johnson was a pioneer in the U.S. ski industry and a founder of the Snowbird ski resort in Utah, his daughter, Kylie Johnson, told Noozhawk.

He was twice featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

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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