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Wednesday, May 14 2014 01:57 PM

Investigator says alleged texting crash unlike anything he's ever seen

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Anna Marie Reynosa turns to leave Kern County Superior Court after her June 11, 2012 arraignment on a vehicular manslaughter charge in the death of motorcyclist Charla Wilkins.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The lead investigator in the fatal 2012 crash allegedly caused by a texting driver knew at first glance the incident was unlike any he'd ever come across.

The victim's sport motorcycle was upright and embedded in the front of the Toyota Tacoma driven by Anna Marie Reynosa. The two vehicles conjoined at impact; about a third of the bike was under the truck.

Bakersfield police Detective Chris Bagby said the crash was "tremendously remarkable" from a technical standpoint, and indicative of "significant" speed.

"I don't know that anybody's ever seen that before," Bagby said.

The officer's testimony Wednesday came during the fourth day of Reynosa's trial for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Prosecutors say she was speeding and texting, and ran a stop sign when she slammed into the back of Charla Wilkins' motorcycle at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road.

Wilkins, 20, had been stopped at the stop sign. She died shortly after the crash.

Reynosa, 22, faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

Under questioning from prosecutor Esther Schlaerth, Bagby examined photographs taken at the scene and identified the point of impact and where the vehicles came to a stop 331.6 feet later. The force of the impact was evident from where Wilkins' body struck different surfaces: Her left leg made an imprint on the motorcycle's gas tank, her back struck and dented the hood of the pickup, and her head slammed into and cracked the truck's windshield.

After hitting the windshield, Wilkins flew over the pickup and hit the ground, where she rolled and tumbled on the roadway, Bagby said. Her body came to a rest 153 feet -- about half the length of a football field -- from where she was first hit.

The crash occurred about 8:37 p.m. It was dark but clear; the roadway is well lit and there are no curves or hills leading to where Jewetta crosses Reina Road, Bagby said. Weather wasn't a factor, with the National Weather Service reporting visibility of nine miles.

"Stop Ahead" is written on the roadway approaching the intersection, and two reflective signs warning of the upcoming stop are at both the east and west side of Jewetta Avenue. The stop signs at the intersection, like every stop sign in the city, are reflective.

Police estimate Reynosa was traveling 63-68 mph at impact. Evidence shows she never applied her brakes.

Reynosa told the first officers to respond she'd been on her cellphone when she crashed. Interviewed shortly afterward by Bagby, she gave a variety of different responses as to what she'd been doing with the phone before impact, including: looking at the phone as a matter of habit; examining a received text message or phone call; in the process of receiving or sending a message; and looking down at her phone but not manipulating it.

She blamed the crash on brake failure, saying the brakes completely went out. Later analysis showed the pickup's brakes were worn but serviceable, Bagby said.

The detective said the phone was delivered to the Bakersfield Police Department's forensics unit, but he didn't receive data and had to go through the phone manually. He found a partial draft of a message to a "Nick" investigators believe Reynosa was writing at the time of the crash. There was no time stamp on it.

Bagby said he asked Reynosa about Nick. She denied knowing anyone by that name, and said someone must have entered that contact on her phone without her knowledge.

He told her the phone showed she'd contacted Nick before. She denied it.

Bagby then called the number listed for Nick. Someone answered, but then hung up when Bagby asked to speak to Nick. He called back but the phone went straight to voicemail.

He said he called the number again the following day. The phone had been disconnected.

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