2.26.2010

TS - Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash

Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash

Jason Bradley Whitmill faces a charge of first-degree murder for his alleged role in the car race on State Route 299 that resulted in the Oct. 6 crash that claimed the life of 9-year-old Nicole Quigley.

Whitmill, 31, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge at his arraignment Tuesday, and also entered not guilty pleas to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury, vehicular manslaughter and engaging in a speed contest.

The man Whitmill was allegedly racing with, Anthony Marques Flores, also appeared in court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular manslaughter, engaging in a speed contest and leaving the scene of an accident that caused serious injury.

Whitmill remains held on $1 million bail, while Flores remains held on $250,000 bail.

Public Defender Laura Cutler was assigned to represent Whitmill and Deputy Conflict Council Kaleb Cockrum was assigned to defend Flores, after both told the court they could not afford an attorney.

Cutler declined to comment on the case and Cockrum could not be reached by deadline.

Whitmill was allegedly driving a 2004 Pontiac Sunfire when he and Flores, who was driving a now infamous 1998 Mustang convertible, allegedly began racing, reportedly reaching speeds of more than 90 mph while barreling down State Route 299.

During the alleged race, Whitmill's Sunfire reportedly clipped a Chevrolet Tahoe that was driving the same direction, and carrying Debra Quigley, her twin daughters and one of their friends. Assistant District Attorney Wes Keat said in an e-mail to the Times-Standard that he thinks the evidence will show that Whitmill tried to pass between the Mustang and the Tahoe at a high rate of speed and ended up colliding with them both.

The impact of the collision caused both the Sunfire and the Tahoe to veer from the road and down an embankment.

The Tahoe came to rest after slamming into a utility pole at an unknown rate of speed. Nine-year-old Nicole Quigley reportedly died instantly from the impact of the collision, and Debra Quigley reportedly suffered injuries to her torso and neck and was later flown to Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, Ore., for treatment.

Nicole Quigley's twin sister and the other passenger reportedly suffered minor injuries and walked away from the wreckage.
The accident reportedly left the Sunfire resting on its roof, and its passenger, 40-year-old Cheri Marcelli, of Willow Creek, with major injuries. She has since been released from Mad River Community Hospital. Whitmill reportedly escaped the crash uninjured, but was taken into custody at the scene on a parole hold.

Flores reportedly fled the scene of the accident, spawning a days-long search for him and his car, which he reportedly spray painted black after the accident. Flores was arrested Oct. 9, after local law enforcement received dozens of tips about the whereabouts of silver Mustangs all over the county. Flores' car was recovered a couple of days later.

Tuesday, members of the Quigley family and supporters were present for Flores' and Whitmill's arraignments.

Keat said the District Attorney's Office has been in contact with the family, and is attempting to help them understand the legal process that is now unfolding.

While elements of malice and planning are generally required for a first-degree murder charge, University of California Hastings School of Law professor David Levine said those elements aren't necessary for this charge, as Whitmill is alleged to have committed a separate felony, driving under the influence, that also led to Nicole Quigley's death.

”It's a rule of criminal law that if you commit 'felony A,' and in the course of committing 'felony A' a death takes place, even if you didn't intend for that death to take place, you can be charged with first-degree murder,” Levine said. “The commission of this separate felony DUI is what enables the prosecutor to charge murder. And, of course, that leaves tremendous leverage for a plea bargain. It's certainly legitimate (for the prosecutor) to charge up like that.”

Keat said, as a parent, he has a tremendous amount of empathy for what the Quigleys are going through right now.
”As a parent, you send your child out in the world, or in this case you're out there with them,” Keat said, his voice trailing off. “It's just unthinkable.”

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 10/15/2008 01:21:20 AM PDT

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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.