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Rohnert Park crosswalk death still bitter for father
As yearlong case ends, toddler's dad vexed by driver's mild sentence

  • Jeff Murray and his daughter, Calli, in 2010. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Jeff Murray feels cheated.

He feels cheated by the text-messaging driver, Kaitlyn Dunaway, 19, who struck his wife and 2-year-old daughter in a crosswalk, killing his toddler, Calli Murray.

He feels cheated by Rohnert Park police who did a crash investigation that concluded his wife -- who was gravely injured -- was somehow at fault.

And he feels cheated by a judicial system that allowed Dunaway to plead to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and receive a sentence of five days in jail. With good-time credit, she'll be out in three.

"It is unacceptable," Murray said Thursday, a day after the year-long case came to a close in an emotional court hearing. "We were cheated out of Calli's life."

Murray, who made his comments after talking about the outcome on a Bay Area talk show on KGO radio, doesn't fault prosecutors, who played no role in the sentence from Judge Bradford DeMeo.

Deputy District Attorney Craig Brooks refused to accept police findings and hired an independent investigator who blamed Dunaway for the crash.

Brooks said Dunaway was writing up a text message to a friend when she struck Calli and Ling Murray in the Snyder Lane crosswalk near Medical Center Drive just after dark last December.

However, Rohnert Park police Sgt. Jeff Nicks said Thursday he stands by his detectives' finding of "shared fault" in the crash. Nicks said there is no question Dunaway's texting slowed her response but that mother and daughter stepped into the crosswalk when it wasn't safe to do so.

"Unfortunately, you had two wrong things that occurred at the same time," Nicks said.

He added: "There are no winners in this case. Nothing we can do can bring Calli back."

And Murray said there is actually some good to come from the tragedy. He and his wife, who is recuperating from broken bones, have received an outpouring of support.

Also, he's pushing for legislation to toughen penalties on distracted drivers so that others won't experience the heartbreak he has endured. He even has a website, www.Laws4calli.org.

"Every day I see people driving using cell phones," Murray said. "It's an epidemic. We just have to break the habit."

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