A Santa Rosa woman facing retrial in a fatal crash that happened as she chased her boyfriend on his motorcycle will try to exclude incriminating statements she allegedly made to paramedics at the scene.
At her first trial, jurors were told Heather Howell, 31, engaged in small talk with paramedics, saying “I’m going down,” and “I know they are going to get me,” according to testimony.
Howell also was overheard by paramedics talking on a cellphone to her boyfriend, Charles “Tony” Kraus, then 45 of Penngrove. Police testified she asked him, “What is your story?” and urged him not to talk to police.
While jurors found her guilty of reckless driving and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, they deadlocked on second-degree murder, voting 9-3 in favor of conviction. Prosecutors ordered a new trial on the lone count.
This time around, Howell’s new lawyer, Chief Deputy Public Defender Kristine Burk, will try to keep out certain statements that came in under Howell’s previous attorney, Steve Spiegelman.
In pretrial motions, Burk is asking to exclude any statements attributed to Howell by two paramedics that were obtained while she was in law enforcement custody and the paramedics were acting as government agents.
She suggests those statements may be inadmissible, in part because Howell was not advised of her right against self-incrimination.
Burk also will try to block statements Howell made to CHP officers and a detective, as well as a text message she sent to her aunt requesting a lawyer.
Also, Burk is seeking to exclude autopsy photos and testimony from a forensic pathologist that included graphic descriptions of the victim’s injuries.
She and prosecutor Anne Masterson are expected to argue the motions before Judge Robert LaForge. Jury selection begins Wednesday.
Howell was convicted of causing the July 2012 crash that killed Jesse Garcia, 56, also of Santa Rosa.
Witnesses testified she was fighting with her boyfriend before he got on his Harley-Davidson and rode away.
She chased him at high speeds in her car down Fulton Road, weaving through traffic and running lights. A witness said Howell shook her first out her window and yelled, “Yee-haw!”
On Hall Road, after passing traffic on the right shoulder, she rear-ended Garcia, causing his Triumph convertible to flip and burn.
Paramedics treated Howell at the scene. She allegedly told them she had been drinking and that a relative gave her cocaine a few days earlier.
The paramedics also said they heard her talking on her phone to Kraus, who was parked nearby and standing next to his motorcycle.
Detective Jesse Hanshew testified that Howell instructed Kraus, “Whatever you do, don’t say anything. My uncle is a lawyer, and he’ll get us out of this.”
Howell, who faces 10 years in prison under her current convictions, could receive an additional 15-year-to-life sentence if she’s found guilty of second-degree murder.
Prosecutors brought the charge under a theory that she was aware of the dangers of drinking and driving from a prior conviction, but did it anyway.
Some jurors after her first trial commented they did not believe Howell showed malice required for a murder conviction.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.