2.26.2010

TS - >Judge holds Whitmill, Flores to answer for 299 wreck

Judge holds Whitmill, Flores to answer for 299 wreck
A preliminary hearing for two men allegedly involved in an October traffic collision that killed a 9-year-old girl concluded Friday morning with Humboldt County Superior Court judge finding there was enough evidence for both men to stand trial on charges including vehicular manslaughter.

Jason Whitmill, 31, stands accused of second degree murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence causing injury and engaging in a speed challenge, while Anthony Flores, 19, is charged with vehicular manslaughter, engaging in a speed challenge and participating in a hit-and-run injury.

At the hearing's conclusion, Judge Bruce Watson also ordered the release of Whitmill's wife, Cheri Marcelli, who was held in contempt of court and arrested Thursday morning after refusing to testify at the hearing.

Marcelli was returned to court Friday morning to testify, but she again declined to take the stand and was returned to jail until her release Friday afternoon.

Investigating officers, who testified during the week-long hearing, said it appears Marcelli was a passenger inside the Pontiac Sunfire, which collided with the back of a Chevrolet Tahoe, seriously injuring its driver, Debra Quigley, and killing her 9-year-old daughter, Nicole.

Whitmill, however, has maintained Marcelli was driving the vehicle.

Deputy District Attorney Randy Mailman said no decision has yet been made to subpoena Marcelli to testify at the men's eventual trial.

Whitmill and Flores will return to court March 27.

A motion to suppress evidence of blood alcohol levels, filed by Whitmill's attorney Glenn Brown on the grounds Whitmill's blood was drawn illegally and without his consent, was denied by Watson. The blood evidence, which was ordered to be drawn from Whitmill by a California Highway Patrol sergeant after Whitmill declined to give a sample, showed his blood alcohol level was at around .14 percent at the time of the collision.

The sergeant, Watson ruled, had probable cause to order Whitmill's blood drawn, and the evidence will be admissible at trial.
Testimony given by law enforcement and evidence technicians throughout the hearing described the course of events prosecutors have alleged caused the death of Nicole Quigley.

That testimony indicated Whitmill and Flores allegedly began racing side-by-side on Highway 299, speeding at more than 100 mph. Those two vehicles, a Ford Mustang, allegedly driven by Flores, and the Sunfire, allegedly driven by Whitmill, continued for around eight miles as they approached a black Tahoe being driven in the slow lane by Debra Quigley.

As the two vehicles approached the SUV -- the Mustang in the fast lane, the Sunfire in the slow lane -- the Sunfire allegedly attempted to swerve between the two other vehicles, possibly in an attempt to speed through the gap and pass both vehicles.
During that maneuver, the Sunfire struck the SUV, sending it rolling off the road.

A CHP investigator said a computer taken from the Sunfire showed the vehicle was traveling at speeds of 100 mph at the moment of impact, and although the driver briefly applied the brakes, their foot never came off the gas.

According to testimony from investigators, the Tahoe went airborne three times, smashing through a road sign and a utility pole before coming to rest against a fence.

The Sunfire also skidded from the roadway ahead of the Tahoe.

Whitmill was found at the scene with no significant injures. Marcelli suffered severe injuries to her right hand and neck. The type of injury Marcelli sustained led investigators to discredit her story that she had been the driver of the Sunfire. The investigators' theory was further supported by blood evidence found on the passenger's seat, which matched Marcelli's injuries.

The Mustang sped away from the scene, and was located days later after an extensive search in Arcata.

The two men were returned to the Humboldt County jail at the end of the hearing.

Sean Garmire can be reached at 441-0514 or sgarmire@times-standard.com.
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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.