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Judge denies new trial on most charges in Santa Rosa road-rage death

The Santa Rosa woman convicted in a road-rage death that happened as she chased her boyfriend along city streets will be retried on a second-degree murder count but not the other charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Heather Howell, 30, was convicted of reckless driving and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the July 2012 crash that killed another driver, Jesse Garcia, 56, also of Santa Rosa.

Jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of conviction on a more serious second-degree murder allegation. Prosecutors are retrying her on the single charge.

She faces 15 years to life if convicted. She remains in custody.

Her lawyer sought a new trial on all the counts, alleging her previous lawyer was ineffective. But Judge Robert LaForge on Wednesday denied the request, saying it was not proven that a different lawyer would have gotten any other outcome.

Howell's second trial on murder alone is scheduled to start Friday. It is likely to be delayed because a defense expert is unavailable to testify.


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