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Murder Charge Possible in Fatal Wreck Near Casino

Rebecca Sandoval of Lompoc was arrested on DUI charge after crash that killed retired Santa Ynez teacher Linda Wall

A Lompoc woman could face murder charges for allegedly driving while intoxicated and causing a multivehicle collision Thursday near the Chumash Casino Resort that killed a 68-year-old Buellton woman, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Friday.

Retired Santa Ynez Valley Union High School teacher Linda Wall was killed when an alleged drunken driver struck her vehicle and drove it into the car in front of her. Wall retired in 2012 after teaching at the school for 22 years.
Retired Santa Ynez Valley Union High School teacher Linda Wall was killed when an alleged drunken driver struck her vehicle and drove it into the car in front of her. Wall retired in 2012 after teaching at the school for 22 years.

Rebecca Sandoval, 37, of Lompoc, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in the three-vehicle collision, which occurred about 2:10 p.m. near the intersection of Casino Drive and Highway 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley, county Fire Capt. David Sadecki said.

The California Highway Patrol identified the victim Friday afternoon as Linda Wall, a well-known, long-time Spanish and French teacher at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, according to her former colleagues.

Wall retired in 2012 after teaching at the school 22 years, according to Principal Mark Swanitz.

Dudley told Noozhawk she would review the evidence and make a final decision on whether to increase the charges on Monday.

The wreck occurred when an eastbound Jeep Wrangler driven by Sandoval slammed into the rear of a Toyota Highlander — driven by Wall — that was slowing for a red light ahead, the CHP said.

Sandoval was traveling at an unsafe speed, the CHP said, and the force of the impact drove the Highlander into the rear of an already stopped Chevy Equinox.

Wall suffered major injuries, and required CPR, Sadecki said. She was revived at the scene before being transported via a CalStar helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where she later died, the CHP said.

Two victims in the Chevy Equinox — Simone Mikusova, 28, and her passenger, Michal Miklas, 54, both of the Slovak Republic — suffered minor injuries, and were transported by AMR ambulance to Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, where they were treated and released, according to the CHP.

Sandoval, who was uninjured, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of DUI, the CHP said.

CHP Officer John Ortega could not say whether further charges would be brought against Sandoval because of the fatality, since the CHP was still discussing the case with the District Attorney’s Office.

“Although we have been communicating with the CHP, I will review the reports on Monday morning to make a final decision as to what the appropriate charges should be,” Dudley said. “I will base my decision upon the available facts and evidence, a ‘Watson’ murder charge is among the possibilities.”

The “Watson murder” term is derived 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.

Typically, defendants convicted in serious DUI cases 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.

That is the same charge that was recently filed against a former aide to Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Raymond Victor Morua, 32, of Santa Barbara, faces 15 years to life in prison under the charge after he allegedly drove while intoxicated and struck Mallory Rae Dies, 27, of Santa Barbara as she crossed a downtown Santa Barbara street Dec. 6, subsequently fleeing the scene. She died five days later of her injuries.

Morua's arraignment has been postponed twice.

News of Wall’s death spread Friday, saddening friends and family who say the recent retiree was looking forward to doing so much.

Swanitz said Wall had been an educator for 38 years.

“Linda was one of our most beloved teachers, one of the pillars of our school for many, many years,” said Bruce Porter, school board president of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District.

“My own son was in her classes,” he continued. “I just spoke with her in church at Mission Santa Inés this past Sunday. Her loss is so unexpected, and so unnecessary ... she will be sorely missed.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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