A Costa Mesa man was convicted by a jury today of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in a case that involved texting while driving.
Prosecutors accused Martin Burt Kuehl, 42, of Costa Mesa, of sending text messages from his cell phone minutes before he struck a woman who was crossing a Newport Beach street.
The incident happened at the intersection of Westcliff Drive and Buckingham Lane in Newport Beach around 8:31 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2008.
Kuehl was in an SUV driving west on Westcliff when he hit and killed Martha Ovalle, 32, as she walked in a crosswalk. Ovalle, a nanny, was on her way to work.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez said Kuehl sent four text messages and received three text replies in the half-hour before the crash.
Baez said he was texting a woman he had met through an online singles site.
Before the crash, a driver who was behind Kuehl at an intersection honked after Kuehl waited roughly 10 to 15 seconds before turning at a green light, Baez said.
Kuehl then turned onto Westcliff and hit Ovalle whose body was propelled 72 feet and landed in a gutter. She died at the scene.
In an earlier interview with the Register, Kuehl said he never saw Ovalle. He said he was driving safely and characterized the crash as an accident.
Kuehl faces up to nine years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for March 12.
In December, Jeffrey Woods, 21, of Huntington Beach was sentenced to six years in prison for hitting and killing 14-year-old Danny Oates as he rode his bicycle on Aug. 29, 2007. Prosecutors said Woods was driving under the influence of two prescription drugs and sending text messages from his cell phone.
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