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Sebastopol vintner facing DUI manslaughter case from May crash

Ulises Valdez Jr., 27, of Sebastopol, the son of the late Valdez Family Winery founder who manages the wine-growing portion of the business, will return to Sonoma County Superior Court Dec. 22 after a brief hearing Monday.

Attorneys are waiting for additional reports from the California Highway Patrol as a felony drunken-driving manslaughter case against the vineyard manager moves forward.

Valdez could be sentenced to as many as 12 years and four months in prison, if convicted of vehicular manslaughter and other charges in the May 12 crash that killed a man and maimed a child.

Mark Graham Osborne, 53, of Santa Rosa, an enologist with Gary Farrell Winery in Healdsburg died eight days after he was struck while riding his bicycle on the right shoulder of High School Road south of Gaye Road in Sebastopol.

A 12-year-old boy lost a leg, investigators said.

According to the CHP, Valdez, driving a Ram Rebel pickup, was speeding as he came up behind the bicyclists and lost control on a curve in the road. He drove the truck onto the shoulder and struck the 12-year-old, continued back into the traffic lane, then again onto the shoulder, where the truck struck Osborne.

The pickup then drove off the road and crashed into a utility pole and a tree, the CHP said.

A blood test after the crash measured Valdez’s blood-alcohol level at 0.15%, nearly double the legal limit, according to investigators.

Valdez was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol after being taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with significant injuries, including a fractured neck.

Osborne was a native of Australia and an avid cyclist, hiker, kayaker and runner. He specialized in the biology and chemistry of wine production as an enologist at Gary Farrell Winery, where he started his career as an intern in 2007 after moving to Sonoma County from Australia.

The name of the boy, who was unrelated to Osborne, was not released because of his age.

Osborne joined the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and pushed for legislation to improve safety for cyclists, according to a fundraising page in his name. The effort raised and donated more than $20,000 to the Bicycle Coalition and the Friends of Trione-Annadel in Osborne’s name.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

Lori A. Carter

 Sonoma County courts and Rohnert Park, The Press Democrat

Local journalism is vital to a community's wellbeing, and that means keeping an eye on what happens in our justice system and our communities. I cover Sonoma County courts, as well as the city of Rohnert Park. In my work, I want to share the stories that affect our daily lives and, yes, maybe even rile us up. 

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