TS - Looking forward: Quigley family watches and waits as case continues

Looking forward: Quigley family watches and waits as case continues

It has been more than seven months since an October traffic collision along State Route 299 sent a Chevrolet Tahoe, filled with a family, careening down an embankment, through a telephone pole and into a fence.

The Tahoe's driver, Debra Quigley, survived with serious injuries, as did her 9-year-old daughter Ashley. But 9-year-old Nicole Quigley, Ashley's twin sister, was killed.

No amount of time can take away the family's pain of losing their lively 9-year-old daughter, said father Ken Quigley. But time softens the edge, and as the months pass disbelief fades into an enduring numbness.

”We are moving forward, it's just hard to believe we're moving forward without her,” Ken Quigley said. “She was a major part of all our future plans. You've just got to readjust and try to figure out what to do without her.”

Police investigators suspect two men -- Anthony Flores, 19, and Jason Whitmill, 31 -- had been racing down the highway at speeds of over 100 mph before Whitmill's Pontiac Sunfire clipped the back of the Tahoe, sending it rolling off the road.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office has charged Whitmill with second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and engaging in a speed challenge, among other charges. Flores faces vehicular manslaughter, engaging in a speed challenge and participating in a hit-and-run injury.

According to Ken Quigley, neither party had insurance, which raised the burden of many medical costs for the family.

Debra Quigley continues to undergo physical therapy for injuries she suffered in the wreck -- a fractured neck, as well as a broken wrist and shoulder.

”It's been especially hard on her -- not being able to get out and do things to get her mind off of it,” Ken Quigley said.

“Physically, we're doing good. Emotionally, it's a train wreck.”

Easter has come and gone. So has Mother's Day. The holidays, Ken Quigley said, are the hardest.

But the family speaks openly and often about Nicole, not only to express their feelings of loss, but to keep her memory alive.
The Oct. 6 collision also deeply affected Ashley, Ken Quigley said.

The fraternal twins were born August 17, 1999. Now, Ashley is an only child.

For the first few months after the wreck, Ashley had trouble comprehending the reality of her family's loss, Ken Quigley said. “But now it's reality, and she's starting to figure it out -- that she's not coming back.”

Unlike Nicole, Ashley's interests are in sports, and the Quigley family has spent significant effort allowing her to keep playing.
”The thing is, Ashley's still here. If it wasn't for her being here ...,” his voice drifted off.

Throughout the court proceedings for Flores and Whitmill, the Quigley family and their many supporters have donned their pink shirts -- Nicole's favorite color -- and watched intently in the courtroom.

Ken Quigley has watched as both Flores and Whitmill were appointed public counsel and waived their right to a speedy trial, often pushing back their court dates. Although it is a routine practice, as months go by, the process becomes ever more frustrating for Ken Quigley.

”Why do they need three months to try to poke holes in the prosecution's argument?” he asked. “It's frustrating as hell, the whole system is frustrating.”

Speaking generally about defense cases, Humboldt County Public Defender Kevin Robinson said those types of frustrations are common, but ultimately the process is structured to ensure a fair trial for everyone.

”In a felony case, the statute says the defendant and the prosecution are entitled to a trial within 60 days,” Robinson said. “Once you move to continue the trial you give up that right.”

In order to waive rights to a speedy trial, a defendant must show the judge they have good reason to reschedule a court date, Robinson said. Those reasons vary, and include providing more time to investigate, analyze evidence and generally prepare a case for trial.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said that while awaiting jurisprudence can certainly be difficult for a victim's family, the court system is made up of rules that provide protection for everyone, despite the crimes they are accused of committing.

Speaking generally about court cases, Gallegos said, “the problem is, you have an aggrieved victim and an aggrieved community. But the courts don't want to visit one harm on another, and that would be the depravation of a person's right to prepare their defense. But the courts aren't going to let it go on forever.”

Despite the Quigley family's frustrations, they continue to keep the memory of their daughter fresh in their minds.

”There's not 10 minutes goes by I don't think about her,” Ken Quigley said. “She had a great nine years. She really did.”

Sean Garmire can be reached at 441-0514 or sgarmire@times-standard.com.
Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/17/2009 01:27:21 AM PDT

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

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.