District attorney says SR driver in fiery rear-ender was using drugs

  • 11/8/2007: B1: Ryan Karr

    1/21/2007: A11:

    1/20/2007:A9: Ryan Karr

    PC: The driver of the car that caused the collision, Ryan Karr, 26 of Windsor, left, walks with California HIghway Parol officer Heather Bushey, center and Sonoma Life Support's Janet Doty near the scene of the crash on the northbound lanes of Highway 101 near the Airport exit. (The Press Democrat) / Crista Jeremiason) 1/19/07

Ryan Karr, the Santa Rosa man involved in a fiery crash on Highway 101 that killed five people, was arrested Thursday as authorities for the first time drew a link to drugs.

Karr, 26, was booked on five felony counts of committing vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated but without gross negligence, prosecutors said.

Court records also list five misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter and a single count of being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Assistant District Attorney Christine M. Cook identified the substance as cocaine but refused to elaborate or provide a copy of the complaint filed against Karr.

He was arrested Thursday morning at his Rincon Valley home, a little more than 11 months after the Jan. 17 crash in rush-hour traffic on Highway 101 near Windsor.

"I always thought that eventually (Karr) would have to go to jail," said Francisca Jimenez, whose 5-year-old nephew is the only other survivor of the crash. "It wasn't just a dog that he killed, it was a whole family."

Karr's lawyer, Andy Martinez, said the filing of alternative manslaughter charges suggests prosecutors don't have the evidence to prove Karr was driving while intoxicated.

If that's the case, he said, charges probably will be reduced to misdemeanors at a preliminary hearing.

Martinez criticized authorities for arresting a remorseful man who has cooperated with investigators all along. The CHP investigative report was turned over to the district attorney in November.

"They wait this long, five days before Christmas, and they find the need to go arrest him?" he said. "This is absolutely the worst case of grandstanding I have ever seen."

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