Jurors convicted a Santa Rosa woman Friday of second-degree murder for killing another driver during a drunken pursuit of her motorcycle-riding boyfriend in 2012.
Heather Howell, 30, who had been previously tried for the death of Jesse Garcia, 56, also of Santa Rosa, cried as the guilty verdict was read in Sonoma County Superior Court.
Unlike in the first trial, where jurors were undecided as to whether what she did amounted to murder, members of the second panel had no doubt.
They returned a guilty verdict after about 4½ hours of deliberation.
“What she did met the criteria for murder,” juror Audrey Whitbeck of Petaluma said.
Another juror said Howell’s demeanor during a taped police interview proved her guilt.
“She cut her own throat,” juror Don Reed of Windsor said. “It was her choice to do what she did.”
Now, Howell faces 15 years to life in prison at her Nov. 19 sentencing.
She was exposed to a 10-year sentence after being found guilty last year of reckless driving and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of conviction at her first trial.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch congratulated deputy prosecutor Anne Masterson for the second outcome.
“This is an important verdict, not only for this case but for the community,” Ravitch told jurors gathered outside the courtroom.
Prosecutors said Howell had been drinking and using drugs July 14, 2012, when she got into an argument with her boyfriend, Tony Kraus, at her Harmon Lane home.
Kraus rode off on his Harley-Davidson and she pursued him in her black Acura, according to testimony.
The pair raced down Fulton Road, weaving through traffic and running lights, witnesses said.
At one point, Howell put her hand out her window in the shape of a pistol and pointed it at Kraus, a witness testified. Another witness said he heard her yell, “Yee-haw!”
They turned onto Hall Road, where Garcia was driving ahead of them in his Triumph convertible. Howell hit Garcia’s car when she tried to pass another car on the shoulder, causing the Triumph to flip and burn, the CHP said.
Garcia, who became trapped, died in the fire.
Howell and her boyfriend stopped at the scene. She was overheard by emergency workers instructing Kraus about what to say to police and telling him that her uncle was a lawyer.
Later, she gave a recorded statement to police that was shown to jurors.
“In my opinion, Heather Howell didn’t show any emotion or remorse that she took a man’s life,” juror Reed said.
Tests concluded Howell was legally drunk with a 0.11 percent blood-alcohol content. Prosecutors said she also had marijuana and cocaine in her system.
She was charged with second-degree murder in part because of a previous drunken-driving conviction.
Prosecutors argued she knew the dangers of driving while intoxicated but did it anyway.
Jurors said they had little difficulty determining her guilt. They began deliberation after Judge Robert LaForge advised them Howell had been convicted of two felonies at her first trial.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.