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Rohnert Park man charged in fatal Highway 12 crash

A Rohnert Park man accused of killing two Santa Rosa women while driving and texting was formally charged Wednesday with two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter, with an enhancement for great bodily injury that carries more than 12 years in prison.

But prosecutors did not allege Nicholas Tognozzi, 30, was under the influence of marijuana or alcohol in the March 15 crash that killed Sharon Hufford, 74, and her daughter-in-law, Sue Hufford, 53, said Tognozzi's lawyer, Kevin McConnell.

"It's a difficult case that is heartbreaking in many respects," McConnell said. "But we're glad to see there is no allegation of drug or alcohol involvement."

Prosecutor Dustin Hughson said a toxicology report remains pending. Authorities still believe Tognozzi may have had marijuana or alcohol in his system, based in part on his own admissions, Hughson said.

But even if tests confirm he had taken drugs or alcohol, prosecutors are not likely to file additional charges, Hughson said.

He said the complaint includes an allegation of gross negligence based on the "totality of the circumstances," which includes distracted driving, possible unsafe speed for conditions and the presence of intoxicants.

Tognozzi, who appeared in court on $100,000 bail, postponed entering a plea until the next hearing on June 4. McConnell said the two sides would discuss a possible pre-trial settlement.

The crash happened about 5:30 p.m. March 15 as the women and their husbands were stopped at a red light on Highway 12 at Farmers Lane. The four were on their way to dinner at a restaurant.

Tognozzi's pickup slammed into the back of the Toyota Camry, killing the women instantly and injuring driver Jay Hufford, 54, and his father, Donald Hufford, 74.

Tognozzi told the CHP he had looked down at his cellphone to read a text message at the time of the crash.


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