Driver pleads innocent in cyclist death
The Tahoe City man accused of hitting and killing a cyclist with his Jeep pleaded innocent to murder, manslaughter and driving under the influence charges in court Thursday.
Joseph Howard Santen, 35, was arraigned in Placer County Superior Court in Tahoe City. He faces allegations of hitting and killing North Shore resident Brad Reilly, 27, while allegedly driving his Jeep under the influence of alcohol on the night of July 16.
Reilly initially survived the collision, which occurred on Highway 28 near Lake Forest, but died three days later at Washoe Medical Center in Reno from head injuries.
Though there were no witnesses to the accident itself, Santen’s license plate was found near the scene and police used that to track him down, said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Skeen. Passersby came upon the scene shortly after the incident and moved bicycle and vehicle debris to give first-aid to Reilly.
Santen was arrested at his Tahoe City home a couple hours after the accident, not far from the scene, Skeen said.
The investigating officer said Santen appeared under the influence of alcohol and was subsequently arrested. The alcohol content of Santen’s blood remains under investigation, and will not be released, Skeen said.
Investigators are interviewing the witnesses in effort to pinpoint accident details, including vehicle speed and Reilly’s precise location in the roadway.
Santen’s bail review hearing and the preliminary hearing court dates were set for early August on Thursday. He is currently in county jail in Tahoe City and is not eligible for bail.
Santen was arraigned on suspicion of charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and drunken driving causing injury or death, said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran. He had three previous drunken driving convictions, two in Tahoe City, Cattran said.
Santen sat stoically by his attorney, Jordan Morgenstern, in court Thursday.
“For the record,” Morgenstern said, “I don’t know if there is anyone here on behalf of the victim [but I] relay my condolences, and for my client.”
Law enforcement officials said they could not report at this time whether or not Reilly had been drinking. Investigators are still working on details of the case as they build the timeline of both Santen and Reilly’s whereabouts and involvement before the accident.
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