|For Immediate Release
Case # 12CF2769 April 12, 2013
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
DRIVER SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS IN PRISON FOR CRASHING INTO AND KILLING BICYCLIST BEFORE FLEEING THE SCENE
SANTA ANA – A driver was convicted and sentenced today to five years in state prison for killing a bicyclist after crashing into her and fleeing the scene. Michael Jason Lopez, 40, Anaheim, pleaded guilty to a court offer to one felony count of hit and run causing death and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence with a sentencing enhancement for a prior strike conviction for residential burglary in 1993.
At approximately 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2012, 57-year-old Catherine Campion-Ritz was riding her bicycle with her husband on Newport Coast Drive in Newport Beach. Lopez was driving his Toyota pickup truck on the same road and crashed into the back of the victim’s bike, causing her to be thrown on to the street.
Instead of stopping to assist the victim or calling 911, Lopez failed to remain at the scene or render any aid and fled the scene. Lopez sustained damage to his truck consistent with colliding with a person riding a bicycle.
Ritz was transported to Mission Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 1:40 p.m.
The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD), who investigated this case, identified Lopez’s truck through surveillance video, obtained his license plate number, and determined he was the driver. NBPD arrested Lopez on Sept. 18, 2012.
Victim impact statements were submitted to the court by the victim’s mother, her husband, two brothers, and two sisters. The victim’s mother said in part, “Her death was a tragic loss for all of us. Without warning, she was gone and our lives will never be the same without her. I never expected to outlive my children, yet Kit is gone at 57 and I am still here at 87.”
The victim’s husband said in part, “Catherine was many things to many people; physician and leader in the medical community, business leader, a church lector, and family leader. To me she was my wife. She was my confidant, my partner in adventure, and my inspiration. There is an emptiness at home with no one to reminisce about [the] past, to discuss the day’s events or to make plans for the future. The activities we did together I typically now do alone or not at all.”
Deputy District Attorney Anna McIntire of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.