A Santa Rosa woman charged with second-degree murder in a deadly crash that prosecutors say happened when she tried to run over her boyfriend on his motorcycle was legally drunk at the time and was heard by witnesses yelling "yee-haw" out her window, a deputy testified Wednesday
The revelations about Heather Howell, 29, charged in the July 14 crash that killed Jesse Garcia, 56, also of Santa Rosa, came during the second day of a preliminary hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence for the potential life-in-prison allegation. Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite ruled there was.
Before she made the finding, Deputy Jesse Hanshew of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office testified that toxicology results on evidence collected from Howell at the scene showed her blood-alcohol level was 0.11 percent. The legal limit is 0.08.
Hanshew also testified about statements from a witness standing in front of his house on Countryside Drive who said he saw a woman in a black Acura chasing a man on a Harley-Davidson and yelling from her window.
Aaron Fogerson said he was carrying a bucket of water in front of his house when the two sped by, tires squealing, Hanshew said. Fogerson said he saw both vehicles head west on Hall Road, where prosecutors said Howell rear-ended Garcia's 1969 Triumph convertible, causing it to overturn and catch fire.
"Aaron told me he overheard the white female in the car yell," Hanshew testified. "He understood that to be yee-haw."
Hanshew also testified about statements attributed to Howell by paramedics. She told Jeremy Robinson that she had a "hard, mixed drink" earlier in the day and admitted taking cocaine given to her by an aunt three days earlier, Hanshew said.
Howell engaged Robinson in small talk, saying "I'm going down" and "I know they are going to get me."
At one point, she had a cellphone conversation with her boyfriend, Tony Kraus, 45, of Penngrove, who parked his motorcycle and was standing outside the ambulance, Hanshew said. Paramedics overheard her saying, "So what is your story?" and "What did you tell them?" Hanshew said.
"Howell said, 'Whatever you do, don't say anything. My uncle is a lawyer and he'll get us out of this,' " Hanshew testified.
Hanshew said he was "inundated" with calls from witnesses who reported dangerous driving on southbound Fulton Road leading up to the crash. Witnesses said Howell ran at least three red lights, drove at speeds up to 90 mph — becoming airborne — and swerved into oncoming traffic.
Officers testified she was chasing Kraus after flying into a rage when he told her he was cheating on her.
"At least four people were a near-miss," prosecutor Anne Masterson said.
The two turned onto Hall Road, got sidetracked for a moment on Countryside and then raced back onto Hall, where Howell tried to ram Kraus' motorcycle, police said.
When Kraus swerved out of the way, Howell struck the back of Garcia's Triumph, leaving an imprint of the sports car's emblem on her right fender, prosecutors said.
Masterson argued that murder charges are warranted because of Howell's reckless driving and because of a prior drunken-driving conviction.
In 2006, Howell signed standard court papers agreeing that if she ever killed anyone while driving intoxicated, prosecutors could charge her with murder.