A Santa Rosa man who struck and killed a Santa Rosa yoga teacher while suspected of being under the influence of drugs Wednesday night has a history of drug use, impaired driving and criminal behavior, authorities said.
Andrew Michael Tungseth, 33, is likely facing charges for at least gross vehicular manslaughter in the latest case. But he has a record reflecting a pattern of unlawful driving and drug use that could raise his exposure to harsher consequences than the maximum 10 years he could face for vehicular manslaughter.
Commenting less than a day after the deadly crash on Stony Point Road that took the life of Victor Buxbaum, 52, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said her staff was still investigating the case and would review it in-depth before deciding how to charge Tungseth.
Pedestrian, Dog Killed On Stony Point Road
But she noted that her office has previously filed murder charges in fatal crashes involving impaired drivers and is currently prosecuting a second-degree murder case in which a defendant with a prior drunken driving conviction was legally drunk and chasing her boyfriend in her car when an ensuing collision caused his death. The defendant, Heather Howell, faces a possible life sentence.
The CHP said Tungseth was driving with a suspended license and had just gotten off probation in connection with a 2009 DUI conviction when he veered off Stony Point Road on Wednesday night and struck and killed Buxbaum.
Buxbaum, a Santa Rosa resident and teacher at Yoga Studio Ganesha, owned by his former wife, Devorah Blum, had driven to the area apparently for a walk along a county creek trail with his pitbull, authorities said.
Buxbaum and the dog were a at least 10 feet off the paved roadway at the entrance to the Colgan Creek trail when Tungseth drove onto the northbound shoulder and killed the pair, the CHP said. His 2004 Toyota Tacoma continued along the shoulder, crashing into two parked cars before coming to a stop.
Tungseth also was involved in 2004 in a pursuit and crash with a Rohnert Park Public Safety officer who tried to stop him on a traffic violation before Tungseth took off, initiating a chase. Police in that case found hypodermic needles in his vehicle. He was convicted of wanton disregard for public safety while fleeing law enforcement and sentenced to six months in jail in that case, according to court records.
Tungseth has additional drug and drug-possession charges and license suspensions on his record, as well, and had three license suspensions at the time of the 2004 Rohnert Park incident, according to law enforcement reports.
"Saying he has an extensive criminal history would be pretty accurate," said the CHP's Sloat.