|For Immediate Release
Case # 09CM08970
October 5, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
72-YEAR-OLD DRIVER CHARGED WITH KILLING PEDESTRIAN AFTER CRASHING INTO LIGHT POLE AND KNOCKING IT OVER ONTO VICTIM
SANTA ANA – A 72-year-old driver has been charged with killing a pedestrian after crashing her car into a light pole, knocking it over onto the victim. Wilma Harriet Moerke, Mission Viejo, is charged with one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act without gross negligence and faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail if convicted. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009, in Department C-46, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
At approximately 8:00 a.m. on April 18, 2009, Moerke is accused of driving in her Toyota Sedan and crashing into a light pole at the corner of Main Street and Garry Street in Santa Ana, knocking it over onto 67-year-old pedestrian Roger Peloquin. The victim, who was walking with his wife of 40 years and another couple, hit his head on the ground and was pinned under the light pole. Peloquin’s male friend and another passing pedestrian lifted the light pole off of the victim in an effort to save his life.
Responding police officers found the victim unconscious on the pavement, bleeding from the head. Peloquin was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The defendant remained at the scene.
The law describing the distinction between misdemeanor and felony manslaughter:
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter may be charged when there is “ordinary negligence,” or the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to one’s self or another. A person is negligent if he or she does or fails to do something that a reasonable careful person would not do in the same situation.
Felony vehicular manslaughter may be charged when there is “gross negligence” which involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. Gross negligence would require a person to act in a reckless manner that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury and a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk. The person’s action must be so different from how an ordinary careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of the act.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Alex is prosecuting this case.