2.26.2010

TS - Preliminary hearing over Highway 299 wreck continues

Preliminary hearing over Highway 299 wreck continues

The preliminary hearing for two men accused of causing an October wreck that claimed the life of a 9-year-old girl began Monday with testimony from a traffic officer who testified a couple involved in the collision allegedly conspired to deceive officers about who had been driving the car.

The preliminary hearing -- continued since February -- is set to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Anthony Flores, 19, and Jason Bradley Whitmill, 31, to stand trial on charges relating to their alleged roles in a street race along State Route 299 that led to the fatal car crash.

The prosecution has alleged Flores was racing Whitmill at more than 90 mph on Highway 299 near Guintoli Lane on Oct. 6, 2008, when Whitmill attempted to pass Flores' vehicle on the right side and collided with a Chevrolet Tahoe headed the same direction.

Debra Quigley, the driver of the Tahoe, broke her neck and shoulder, and her 9-year-old daughter Nicole died when the vehicle flipped and slammed into a utility pole.

California Highway Patrol Officer Abraham Cho was the first emergency responder to arrive at the scene at around 4:33 p.m.

Testifying Monday, Cho said that when he arrived, he found Whitmill standing, with only minor injuries, outside his vehicle. Cheri Marcelli, who Whitmill identified as his wife, told Cho she had been driving the vehicle.

Cho interviewed Whitmill and Marcelli at the scene, and suggested both offer blood evidence for testing.

Whitmill declined to give a blood sample, but one was later taken which showed a blood alcohol level of .1 percent.

That evidence has been disputed as possibly inadmissable by Whitmill's attorney, Glenn Brown, and a motion is pending on the matter.

After the collision, Cho said he examined bruises on Marcelli's right shoulder, which indicated to him she had been sitting in the passenger's seat at the time of the wreck.

Marcelli later recanted her story to authorities, Cho said. After learning a young girl had died in the wreck, she told police Whitmill had been driving the vehicle, and after the collision, while the two waited for emergency personnel to arrive, they decided to tell police she had been driving in an effort to keep Whitmill, a parolee, out of prison.

Flores fled the scene, but was later arrested after an intense search for his silver-colored late model Ford Mustang, which was eventually recovered despite being spray-painted black.

Flores faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, illegal street racing causing an injury, and failure to stop for an injury accident.

Whitmill is facing charges of murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter, DUI and illegal street racing causing injury.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges and remain held in Humboldt County jail. The preliminary hearing is expected to continue today.

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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.