Cyclist dies from injuries; motorist charged with murder, manslaughter |

Cyclist dies from injuries; motorist charged with murder, manslaughter

David Bunker and Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

A Tahoe City man has been arraigned on charges of murder, manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol in a fatal hit-and-run collision with a cyclist Sunday night on Highway 28.

Joseph Santen was arraigned Thursday and entered no plea to the charges, said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran. The arraignment has been continued to next Thursday.

Cattran said Santen is a chronic DUI offender with convictions in 2000 and 2001 in Tahoe City and a 2004 conviction in San Diego.

If the district attorney’s office pursues the murder charge, it will have to prove the death of Brad Thomas Reilly occurred with “implied malice,” using his DUI conviction history and other evidence, said Cattran. Malice, or intent to kill, must be proven in a murder conviction.

A manslaughter charge is used in a case where a killing occurred without intent to kill.

Reilly, the Tahoe City cyclist allegedly hit by Santen, died Wednesday at Washoe Medical Center from head injuries suffered in the accident near Lake Forest.

Reilly was struck from behind while riding his bike west on Highway 28 near Lake Forest just after 11 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol reports.

Santen was arrested after allegedly fleeing the scene. He was not arrested immediately following the accident, said CHP officer Steve Skeen.

Reilly was wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt and camouflage pants on Sunday night, and officers are also examining the lighting of the road, whether the bike had reflectors, and any other factors that may determine how and why the accident occurred, Skeen said.

Reilly’s friends packed the Washoe Medical Center waiting room in the days following the accident, said Lynn Eaton, Reilly’s mother. The showing was a testament to her 27-year-old son’s friendly disposition and fun-loving nature, she said.

“He made tons of friends up here,” Eaton said.

Born in Spokane, Wash., where his family still lives, Reilly set out for adventure, driving his car as far as it would take him, said Eaton. He ended up in North Tahoe, pursuing his outdoor passions of snowboarding, skateboarding and cycling.

“He was a free spirit,” Eaton said.

Reilly worked at Squaw Valley USA last winter and was working summer jobs while gearing up for another winter on the slopes, according to those who knew him.

“He was an amazing mountain biker and snowboarder. He just lived his life in a way that made him happy,” said friend Christy Deysher. “Being in Tahoe made him happy. He was just a really good guy.”

He had a particular love for cycling, and used his bike as his main transportation, Eaton said.

Mitch Pavel, another Tahoe friend, remembers Reilly’s seemingly ever-present cheerfulness.

“He was always smiling,” said Pavel.

Eaton said she believes her son was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Skeen said no helmet was found at the scene.

The CHP still has eight officers working the case, Skeen said, including a state helicopter that has been taking aerial photographs of the roadway where the collision occurred.

This case is “very complex,” said Skeen, and the officers are interviewing each witness.

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