A Santa Rosa woman was in custody Sunday, suspected of vehicular manslaughter in an apparent domestic violence case that played out on a west Santa Rosa road, ending with the fiery death of an uninvolved driver.
Driver Heather Ann Howell, 28, apparently knew the man on the motorcycle she allegedly was chasing along Fulton and Hall roads late Saturday afternoon, the CHP reported.
Witnesses in a Lexus told the CHP the woman driver appeared to be trying to hit the motorcyclist as they sped along Hall Road.
The bike rider veered out of the way, Howell's sedan hit the side of the Lexus in front of her, driven by Robert Scott Tuttle, 89, of Santa Rosa. Her car then hit the rear of a 1969 Triumph Spitfire convertible, said CHP Sgt. Dave Derczo.
The Triumph flipped and landed on its top, trapping the driver inside. Witnesses told officers they could hear the man screaming as the car caught fire. He died at the scene.
The driver was believed to be a 55-year-old Santa Rosa man, the CHP reported. His name wasn't released Sunday. His identity was expected to be verified by the Sonoma County Coroner's Office through dental records.
The motorcycle rider's name also wasn't released Sunday.
The 4:45 p.m. crash occurred on Hall Road near Irwin Lane.
Long, curving skid marks and a large scorched patch of road and earth marked the collision spot. On Sunday, someone had left a bouquet of purple, blue and red flowers in a vase in the middle of the blackened ground. Other bouquets, potted plants and a note appeared at the scene throughout the day.
CHP officers closed that stretch of Hall Road for more than five hours after the crash, allowing for the investigation.
The CHP is investigating the collision, and Sonoma County sheriff's detectives are investigating what was going on with the people involved.
Deputies arrested Howell on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and reckless driving causing great bodily injury. Her bail was set at $50,000.
Howell and the man on the motorcycle reportedly had been a couple, but details on what prompted the apparent road rage weren't released.
Witnesses in the Lexus told officers they first saw the two vehicles on Fulton Road and noticed that the sedan appeared to be chasing the motorcycle, Derczo said.
The two vehicles then turned west onto Hall Road, as did the Lexus.
Occupants in the Lexus realized the two cars were no longer in view ahead of them, but spotted them coming up fast from behind, Derczo said.
It's possible the bike and sedan briefly pulled off into a driveway or another lane before returning to Hall Road, he said.
All three drivers stopped, and calls for help were made. None of the people in the Lexus or the man on the motorcycle required medical help.
Howell was evaluated for injuries after the crash and then taken for questioning.
Officers are investigating whether alcohol or drugs were involved, said the CHP.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.