Katie McKewon, the 19-year-old driver of a Ford Mustang that was involved in a head-on collision that killed her friend Laurel Williams, also 19, was arrested in Berkeley last night, according to police.
She was booked on a no-bail warrant in Santa Rita Jail, according to Lt. Tom Fenner of the Pleasanton Police Department, meaning she couldn't post bail. Fenner said she was expected to be arraigned either this afternoon or tomorrow, where a judge would decide whether to allow her to post bail. A search on the Alameda County Superior Court Web site lists her next court date as being Nov. 15. Fenner said a judge made the determination for the no-bail warrant and declined to speculate whether that was because McKewon was a flight risk, saying the decision was more likely made due to the serious nature of the charges.
The arrest follows toxicology results that came back earlier this week showing McKewon's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit of .08, according to Fenner.
"It's in that range," he said, when asked if the blood alcohol was .24. "We're not releasing the exact amount but it's pretty close to that amount."
Results also showed that there were no drugs in her system, according to Fenner.
The results come two and a half weeks after the Oct. 20 accident. The length of time is due to police sending blood samples to a lab in Pennsylvania, as required by state law, Fenner said. Toxicology reports for Williams may take several weeks to get from the coroner's office, he added.
"There's a lot of investigation that went into this that the public may or may not realize," Fenner said. "It's a huge amount of investigative work that people have to do to make sure that they've got the case together. You don't want to rush to judgment; you want to be as fair as possible with the consequences as serious as this."
McKewon, a 2006 Foothill High School graduate, was booked on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony drunk driving, police said.
The first charge, manslaughter, carries the most serious penalty.
"We were able to run it by the (Alameda County District Attorney's office) yesterday and they charged the most serious alcohol-related charge they could--that's the gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated," Fenner said.
According to the California Penal Code, if proven guilty, the charge is punishable by a state prison term of between four and 10 years. Comparably, a lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter (without gross negligence) is punishable by 16 months to four years.
The second charge, felony drunk driving causing injury, relates to the 70-year-old woman who was hit in her Mercedes SUV by McKewon, Fenner said. It's unclear how much time the charge would add to a sentence if McKewon was found guilty.
Another thing a judge will consider is a prior record, which police records reveal that McKewon has--an unspecified alcohol-related charge, according to Fenner.
"She has been arrested for an alcohol-related (incident) in June," he said.
The Pleasanton Weekly has filed a request under the Public Records Act to confirm the arrest report. Under the act, police have 10 days to respond.
"That all can be factored in by a judge. Certainly patterns don't help a person," Fenner said of the prior record.
Further investigation to possible accessories
Now that charges have been levied against the driver in the accident, police are setting their sights on possible accessories to the incident.
Police are currently investigating what they are calling "persons of interest" who are believed to have purchased and then furnished alcohol for a party both McKewon and Williams attended before the accident.
According to Sgt. Mike Collins, the teens had been at an all-night house party in Pleasanton that began Oct. 19 and lasted through the morning hours of Oct. 20. The girls were dropped off at McKewon's car in Dublin. The collision occurred at 10 a.m. on Foothill Road, just north of Highland Oaks Drive, killing Williams and critically injuring McKewon and Nancy Bressem, the driver of a Mercedes SUV.
"We're going after the people who provided alcohol," Fenner said. "We have some really good evidence on that as well. There's a good chance that we'll be looking to get a warrant for somebody or maybe persons involved in that part of it."
Sentences pertaining to a misdemeanor of furnishing alcohol to minors, directly or indirectly resulting in death, could be six months, Fenner added.
With a case such as this, police struggle to find ways to spread the message to the community that underage drinking can have devastating consequences. As obvious as it sounds, Fenner said more people need to take the issue seriously and realize it could happen to them personally or for parents, to their children.
"Obviously, a lot of lives have been ruined," he said. "Our hearts go out to the Williams family and Katie and her family are never going to be the same, and then all the friends who were there or know these people are going to be affected by it forever too."
The police department has held town hall meetings this past year on underage drinking and plans to continue those.
"There needs to be more discussion--in the community and between families about underage drinking," he said. "It's a tough topic, but it needs to be discussed."
"We did (a town hall meeting) last spring for parents and there was very low turnout. We're very frustrated. We advertised them and we're presenting this information so parents can learn about what their kids are involved in and we're not seeing the interest. It's hard to help people who don't want to attend the meetings or spend the time."
Other programs the police are involved in include the "Every 15 Minutes" demonstration that is a re-enactment of a car accident involving teens who were drinking and those relating to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
The hardest part about seeing incidents like these is that they are 100 percent preventable, Fenner said.
"It's hard to get across to people the consequences that can happen to them," he said. "Younger people, especially, think that it's never going to happen to them, but here's another example. This could have been anywhere in America, same story, same bad decisions."
Check www.PleasantonWeekly.com for updates to this developing story.