Police suspect DUI driver causes fatal east Santa Rosa crash
A 21-year-old man suspected of driving his Dodge Challenger up to 90 mph in a residential neighborhood while intoxicated crashed into a parked Mazda SUV along an east Santa Rosa street early Monday, killing a woman who had been sleeping inside with her dog.
The crash on Hoen Avenue took place at about 3 a.m. City police officers think the woman, whose name they declined to reveal pending her identification by the county coroner, was in her 50s and died with her pit bull in the impact.
Police arrested Angel Ivan Martinez of Santa Rosa on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with a DUI and two additional felony counts and booked him into Sonoma County Jail on $100,000 bail.
He was speeding in his Challenger at 80 mph to 90 mph on a road in which the speed limit is 35 mph, said Santa Rosa Sgt. Summer Gloeckner.
Martinez was driving east on Hoen Avenue and lost control of his car on a curve near Cypress Way and hit the woman’s SUV.
There were no skid marks indicating that he was braking and so officers suspect he hit her vehicle at full speed, Gloeckner said.
The impact of the collision crushed the Mazda’s back end and sent the vehicle airborne. The SUV hit a power pole and slammed into a tree, before stopping in a front yard. Police based the driver’s excessive speed on the tremendous impact and distance traveled by the woman’s SUV, which stopped some 200 feet beyond the impact, Gloeckner said. An unoccupied Prius parked in front of the woman’s Mazda also got caught in the impact.
Authorities transported Martinez by ambulance to a local hospital where he was treated for minor injuries before he was booked into jail.
First responders found the woman dead in her Mazda.
Police said the SUV was full of her belongings and they believed that she was living out of the vehicle.
One-third of Sonoma County's 3,000 homeless people live out of their vehicles, said Jennielynn Holmes, the chief program officer for Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, the region’s largest nonprofit homeless services provider. Last year the percentage was 24 percent and it’s jumped to 29 percent this year, an increase of 21 percent.
Holmes said this is a tragic example of how homelessness is a public health and safety issue. She said homeless people are three or four times more likely to die prematurely than people who have homes.
“This is kind of the heightened risk that happens for people who are living outdoors and in their vehicles,” Holmes said. “Obviously, they don’t have the same protection of people who are housed.”
Police didn’t find an identification on the victim Monday, but officers suspected they know her from crossing paths with her in recent months.
Christina Hall, 36, who lives nearby on Hoen Avenue with her parents, said the victim was a family friend.
Her father met the woman about a year ago, when her car broke down and he helped her, Hall said. Since then, the family had allowed the woman to stay in their home and take showers, do laundry and prepare meals. Hall moved from Texas to her parents’ house about six months ago and then met the woman.
“She wasn’t homeless,” Hall said, noting that the victim lived in the house with her parents.