|For Immediate Release
Case # 09CM08971
October 5, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
DISTRACTED DRIVER TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR KILLING 2-YEAR-OLD GIRL BY FAILING TO STOP AND CRASHING INTO BACK OF SUV
SANTA ANA – A distracted driver will be arraigned tomorrow for crashing into the back of a sport utility vehicle, killing a 2-year-old toddler in her child safety seat. Armstrong Owen Kitchen, 39, Riverside, 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 faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail if convicted. Kitchen is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-46, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
At approximately 10:50 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2008, John Sales was driving northbound on California State Route 55 with his two sick children, 2-year-old Sophia and 3-month-old Connor, on his way home from taking them to a doctor’s appointment. The children were in their child safety seats in the back of the sport utility vehicle driven by their father.
While driving on the freeway, a sedan in front of the victim’s car had a tire blow out and turned on its hazard lights to slow to a stop. Due to the solid flow of traffic, Sales was unable to change lanes and instead safely applied his brakes and came to a stop behind the sedan.
Kitchen is accused of driving between 55 and 65 mph in his Chevrolet pick-up truck behind the victim’s car. 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.
A California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer witnessed the crash and quickly responded to assist the victims. As the officer and Sales attempted to check on the two children in the back seat, Kitchen’s car ignited in flames. The officer and Sales quickly removed Connor and an unconscious Sophia for fear that the Sales’ car might also catch on fire.
When additional officers arrived at the scene, Kitchen is accused of being in possession of marijuana in his truck. The defendant was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. All three victims and the defendant were transported to the hospital. Sophia died at 5:45 p.m. due to blunt force trauma to her head and chest.
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.