A Huntington Beach woman's release from jail without charges after her drunken-driving arrest that followed a crash that killed a 29-year-old Carson man in Fullerton has angered his friends and family, but police and prosecutors claim Deanna Marie Soto is not off the hook yet.
Soto, a 39-year-old medical assistant, was making a left turn at West Walnut Avenue and South Lemon Street just after 1:50 a.m. on June 21 when her Nissan Sentra collided with the Harley Davidson ridden by Robert Lavender III, whose nickname was "Chance."
He was pronounced dead at the scene, and she was later arrested by Fullerton Police on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence and booked into Orange County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond.
Instead of filing charges, the Orange County District Attorney's office kicked the case back to Fullerton Police.
"That case was submitted to us, and we have requested further investigation at this time," explained Farrah Emami, the OCDA spokeswoman.
Fullerton Police Sgt. Jeff Stuart, that department's spokesman, said, "It's actually quite common on major cases that the DA's office will decline charges, pending further investigation. It has nothing to do with the merits of the case."
However, conducting further investigation takes time, and a defendant must be arraigned within 72 hours of being arrested; once arraigned, they have the right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days and the right to a speedy trial.
"Since many of the tests take much longer to get results–blood toxicology typically can take six weeks or more–those results would not be available for the preliminary hearing," Stuart observed. "For this reason, it is not uncommon for the DA to 'kick' the case back for further investigation."
At least one of Lavender's friends posted this on Instagram after Soto's disappearance from the Orange County Jail database:
Of course, Soto is innocent until proven guilty.
Meanwhile, a loved one of "Chance" posted the following on GoFundMe.com to raise money for funeral expenses:
Kudos for reaching the goal.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.