It sounds as if Orange County drivers could use a Red Asphalt refresher. The District Attorney's Office is going hard after two drivers accused of causing separate crashes that killed a man and a toddler and injured another man and an infant.
Wilma Harriet Moerke, 72, of Mission Viejo, has been charged with killing a pedestrian on the morning of April 18 after crashing her car into a light pole, knocking it over onto the victim. Moerke faces arraignment Tuesday in Santa Ana on one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act without gross negligence, which could fetch a maximum sentence of a year in jail.
Also being arraigned in the same courthouse Tuesday is Armstrong Owen Kitchen, 39, of Riverside, who is accused of crashing into the back of a sport utility vehicle on the morning of Dec. 11, 2008, killing a 2-year-old toddler in her child safety seat. Kitchen is charged with one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act without gross negligence and one misdemeanor count of possession or marijuana while driving. He also faces a year behind bars.
In the Moerke incident, she was driving around 8 a.m. April 18 when her Toyota sedan crashed into a light pole at the corner of Main Street and Garry Street in Santa Ana. The pole struck 67-year-old Roger Peloquin, who was out for a walk with his wife of 40 years and another couple, and falling to the ground he hit his head and was pinned under the pole.
Peloquin's male friend and another passing pedestrian tried to lift the light pole to save the victim, who was unconscious and bleeding from the head when police officers arrived. Peloquin was then rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
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Kitchen was driving north on the 55 freeway around 10:50 a.m. Dec. 11 when his Chevy pick-up slammed into the back of an SUV that had stopped because a sedan in front of it experienced a blown tire and had come to a halt with its hazard lights on. John Sales, the driver of the SUV, had been on his way home from taking his two sick children--2-year-old Sophia and 3-month-old Connor--from a doctor's appointment and he was unable to change lanes in time to get around the sedan.
"Kitchen is accused of driving between 55 and 65 mph in his Chevrolet pick-up truck behind the victim's car," says a DA statement on the case. "The defendant is accused of failing to pay attention while driving and slamming into the back of Sales' stopped car, forcing it into the disabled sedan. The back of Sales' car and the front of Kitchen's car were severely damaged."
As Sales and a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer who witnessed the crash went to check on the two children strapped into child-safety seats in the SUV's back seat, Kitchen's truck apparently ignited in flames. The children, who included an unconscious Sophia, were quickly removed for fear that Sales' car might also catch on fire.
Arriving officers allegedly found marijuana in Kitchen's truck, although he is not accused of having been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. He was taken to the hospital along with everyone who had been in Sales' SUV, and it is there that Sophia died at 5:45 p.m. due to blunt force trauma to her head and chest.