2.26.2010

TS - Investigator testifies suspect in fatal crash changed story

Investigator testifies suspect in fatal crash changed story

A California Highway Patrol sergeant who investigated an October traffic collision that killed a 9-year-old girl, testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday that one of the two suspects charged in the fatal crash changed his story about who was driving his car that day.

Sgt. Brett Fabbri testified in Humboldt County Superior Court that three days after the Oct. 6 collision, he interviewed 19-year-old Anthony Flores.

According to Fabbri, when officers contacted Flores at his workplace in Arcata, he first told them he had loaned his silver Ford Mustang to a friend, who he knew only as “Chuck.” Fabbri said, at that time, Flores said he was aware the collision had taken place, but did not know the location of his vehicle.

”At one point in the interview,” Fabbri testified, “Mr. Flores admitted, finally, he was the driver of the Mustang involved in the collision.”

The preliminary hearing is set to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Flores and Jason Whitmill to stand trial.

Whitmill stands accused of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury and engaging in a speed contest.

Flores has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, engaging in a speed contest and leaving the scene of an accident that caused a serious injury.

After his alleged admission, Flores reportedly told Fabbri he had been driving on State Route 299 with his girlfriend and two other passengers when he was passed by a blue Pontiac traveling at a “high rate of speed.”

Fabbri said Flores told him he sped up to more than 100 mph and caught up with the Pontiac, passing it.

As the two vehicles continued side-by-side, Fabbri said Flores noticed they were rapidly approaching a Chevrolet Tahoe, which was in the slow lane.

Fabbri testified Flores said he then saw the Pontiac swerve between his car and the Tahoe, and slam into the SUV, sending it rolling off the road into a utility pole. The Pontiac, Flores told Fabbri, “went airborne,” and clipped a portion of the Mustang's hood.

”He was initially going to stop; however, his passengers were telling him to go,” Fabbri said. “He left the scene of the collision.”
Whitmill and Flores have been charged with engaging in a speed contest. However, Fabbri said Flores “never really said anything about racing.”

Fabbri said he arrived at the scene of the collision shortly after it took place and found both the Tahoe and the Pontiac badly damaged. The Tahoe driver, Debra Quigley, was seriously injured in the collision, and her 9-year-old daughter, Nicole, was killed.

Lying on the grass near the upside down Pontiac were Jason Whitmill, 31, and Cheri Marcelli, 40, Fabbri said.
Despite significant injuries, Marcelli told Fabbri about another vehicle involved in the collision -- a silver Ford Mustang. Fabbri testified he notified authorities to be on the lookout, and reported the event to local media.

Fabbri said authorities used tips from the community to locate Flores before they found his car, which was discovered Oct. 10 in the Arcata McDonald's parking lot. The Mustang, he said, had been spray painted black.
The preliminary hearing continues today.

Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 03/12/2009 01:25:52 AM PDT
***
Related:
09
Whitmill and Flores trial date delayed another month 08/04/2009
Whitmill, Flores take District Attorney's deal 12/05/2009
Jury selection begins in trial of Whitmill, Flores 11/23/2009
Whitmill, Flores trial to proceed 11/10/2009
Motion denied to suppress blood sample in Whitmill case 11/06/2009
Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash 10/15/2008
Quigley family, friends remember 9-year-old Nicole 10/06/09
Nearly one year ago 10/01/2009
Case surrounding fatal crash on Highway 299 delayed 09/15/2009
Too many delays 9/10/09
Legal maneuvers slow case of men charged in 9-year-old's death 09/01/2009
Whitmill and Flores trial date delayed another month 08/04/2009
Evidence, charges unchanged against Whitmill 07/17/2009
Evidence for second degree murder charge? 06/19/2009
Thinking of the Quigleys 05/29/2009
Remember Nicole 05/08/2009
Looking forward: Quigley family watches and waits as case continues 05/17/2009
Defendants in 299 wreck plead not guilty 03/28/2009
Judge holds Whitmill, Flores to answer for 299 wreck 03/14/2009
Wife refuses to testify against husband at preliminary hearing 03/13/2009
Investigator testifies suspect in fatal crash changed story 03/12/2009
Officer testifies about 299 crash at prelim 03/11/2009
Preliminary hearing over Highway 299 wreck continues 03/10/2009
Superior Court delays hearing in 299 crash case 02/11/2009
Broken system 01/23/2009

08
Hug your children 12/03/2008
Vehicular manslaughter suspect has extensive criminal history 11/13/2008
Whitmill-Flores hearing continued 11/06/2008
Street race case waiting on CHP reports 10/23/2008
Authorities seek Mustang passenger for questioning 10/17/2008
Court document: Flores tried to 'subvert' investigation 10/16/08
Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash 10/15/2008
Authorities arrest driver of Mustang 10/10/2008
New driver named in fatal collision 10/09/2008
Search continues for other driver in fatal crash 10/08/2008
◼ ER Parolee named as driver in fatal collision
◼ TS New driver identified in fatal crash
◼ TS New driver named in fatal collision
TS Update: ☛ TS Police still looking for driver
◼ TS Driver sought: Suspected drag race on 299 results in fatal crash

Note: there were other articles in the Eureka reporter, but none are available online anymore.