An elderly woman has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for crashing into a light pole, sending it toppling over onto a pedestrian who was out for an early morning stroll with his wife.
Wilma Harriet Moerke, 72, of Mission Viejo, is officially charged with vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act without gross negligence. She faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail if convicted. She is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Moerke was driving her Toyota Sedan at the corner of Main Street and Garry Street in Santa Ana at 8 a.m. on April 18 when she ran into the light pole, according to police reports.
It fell on pedestrian Roger Peloquin, 67, who was walking with his wife of 40 years and another couple. Peloquin hit his head on the ground when he went down, and then he was pinned under the light pole until his friend and a passing motorist managed to lift it off, according to prosecutors,
But by then Peloquin was bleeding from the head. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Orange County District Attorneys Office filed misdemeanor manslaughter after determining that the cause of the crash was “ordinary negligence,” or the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm.
DA’s spokeswoman Farrah Emami explained that felony vehicular manslaughter is filed where there is “gross negligence” which involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment.
She said state law specifies that 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.
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