A Sonoma County Superior Court judge denied a bail reduction Friday morning for a nursing student charged with murder in connection with a fatal crash west of Santa Rosa on Saturday afternoon.
Heather Ann Howell, 28, was being held under no bail in the Sonoma County jail that week during the court proceedings. The Santa Rosa woman was charged with reckless driving causing great bodily injury and the murder of Jesse Garcia, 55, of Santa Rosa, who died when Howell's 2001 Acura struck Garcia's Triumph Spitfire on Hall Road in Sonoma County.
Howell allegedly was chasing a man on a Harley Davidson motorcycle when the collision occurred. Her car struck a Lexus before colliding with the
Triumph, which overturned and caught fire, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The man on the motorcycle was believed to be Howell's boyfriend and the chase stemmed from a domestic violence incident, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office. The motorcyclist has not been identified.
Deputy District Attorney Anne Masterson disclosed in court Friday morning that alcohol was a factor in the fatal crash.
She told Judge Knoel Owen that Howell admitted alcohol was involved, and that a witness, who she would not identify, also confirmed alcohol was involved, Masterson said.
Results of a Howell's blood test were still pending that day, Masterson said.
Defense attorney Steve Spiegelman said there was no evidence Howell drank alcohol before the collision. He asked the judge to set her bail no higher than $100,000.
Spiegelman said three generations of Howell's family have lived in Sonoma County and she was not a flight risk. He said Howell's 1996 driving under the influence conviction and her 2007 driving on a suspended license conviction were not violent crimes.
Spiegelman said Howell is the only caretaker of her seriously ill mother.
Masterson asked the judge to keep Howell in jail under no bail because of the prior DUI conviction and her admission of alcohol use before the crash.
Howell was scheduled to enter a plea July 27.
Funeral services for Garcia were scheduled for Friday evening and Saturday.
A rosary was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. Friday at Windsor-Healdsburg Mortuary in Windsor and a mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Windsor. Burial is at the Shiloh District Cemetery in Windsor.
Garcia, an avid soccer player, leaves his wife Diana and a daughter Adriana.