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Johnella Thomas of Marin City pleads no contest to vehicular manslaughter in emotional hearing

A 74-year-old driver who struck and killed a Petaluma woman sitting in a parking lot off Bohemian Highway was sentenced to three years of probation in an emotional hearing Wednesday.

Johnella Thomas of Marin City, who earlier pleaded no contest to a single count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, also had her driver's license revoked for the three-year term and was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

Thomas was behind the wheel of her 2010 Mercedes C300 on Feb. 24 when, according to law enforcement, she mistook the accelerator for the brake and sped off the highway north of Camp Meeker, crashing into a gazebo filled with people waiting to go on zipline tours through the redwoods.

Camp Meeker Vehicle Accident


Nola Wolf, 61, who was sitting hand-in-hand with her husband in the gazebo, was the only person hit by the car. She died at the scene, on the shared property of Sonoma Canopy Tours and the Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds.

On Wednesday, Thomas addressed Nola Wolf's husband of 40 years for the first time since the accident.

"She turned around and looked at me and asked for forgiveness," said Chuck Wolf, 64.

He said he agreed with the charge brought by prosecutors and with the sentence handed down by Sonoma County Judge Peter Ottenweiller.

A harsher penalty, including jail time, "wouldn't have served any purpose," Wolf said. "She (Thomas) didn't intend to hurt anybody. No matter what comes out of the court, it doesn't change anything. I still have to live with it."

Prosecutors called the sentence "appropriate," saying it reflected Wolf's wishes, Thomas' clean driving record before the accident, her age and her willingness to take responsibility for the crash.

"It was a tragedy on both sides," Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said. "You have the unbelievable loss for Mr. Wolf and an otherwise law-abiding individual who clearly acknowledged her wrongdoing early on."

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