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By Felix Adamo / The Californian
BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Marie Reynosa's repeated protests of honesty triggered warning signals for Bakersfield police Detective Chris Bagby.
He listened as she gave five separate renditions about what she'd been doing with her cellphone before crashing her pickup into the back of a motorcycle in northwest Bakersfield on April 14, 2012.
There is only one truth, and Bagby repeatedly told Reynosa he knew she was being deceptive about what that truth was. Anytime a person says "honestly," "I'm being honest now," or "here's the truth," he said it often means just the opposite.
Reynosa's interview with Bagby, played for jurors Thursday during the fifth day of her trial for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, revealed a nervous, rapidly speaking woman jumping from one story to the next. Her trial marks the first time in Kern County someone's been charged with manslaughter in connection with texting while driving.
At different times Reynosa told Bagby she was unlocking the phone, just looking down at it, checking a text message or writing a text message.
Or doing nothing at all.
"I wasn't texting and I wasn't on the phone," Reynosa said on the recording. "I just lost focus for a second."
Unbeknown to Reynosa, motorcyclist Charla Wilkins, 20, had already died by the time the interview began. Bagby interviewed Reynosa a short way off from where the crash occurred at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road at 8:37 that night.
Bagby pointed out the discrepancies in Reynosa's stories, noting that examining the phone takes more than a second. He estimated she probably took her attention off the road for six or seven seconds.
A 12-year BPD veteran with thousands of interviews under his belt, Bagby told her he's very good at his job, at solving crashes that are, in effect, large puzzles. He told her he'll put the pieces together.
Reynosa repeatedly tried to interject as Bagby explained how he knew she was lying, but he cut her short each time and told her to listen to him carefully. It's important she listened, he told her, because what she said now could later determine whether she spent a long time behind bars.
"What you're doing is telling me a bunch of things that don't make any sense," he told her.
Reynosa again said she would tell the truth. She said everything happened so fast she was still trying to figure out what happened.
She said she'd been using her phone, and she looked up and saw the motorcyclist. She swore she hit her brakes, but they must have failed.
Later analysis revealed the brakes were worn but serviceable. There's no evidence Reynosa applied them, the only skidmark coming from the rear wheel of Wilkins' motorcycle, the back portion of which became lodged upright underneath the truck.
Reynosa also told Bagby she believed she'd been driving the posted 45 mph speed limit, or a speed fairly close to it. Bagby told her if she'd been driving the speed limit she should have been able to stop in about 150 feet.
The point of impact to the where the conjoined pickup and motorcycle came to a stop measured 331.6 feet. Police have said Reynosa was driving between 63 to 68 mph at impact.
During cross-examination later Thursday, Deputy Public Defender Ernest Hinman went over numerous calculations Bagby performed in figuring out the speed Reynosa was traveling in various hypothetical scenarios. He asked the detective how many published articles and peer-reviewed publications have validated the tests he used in determining speed and drag factors in this type of situation.
"Well, that goes all the way back to Sir Isaac Newton," Bagby responded.
Hinman clarified his question, and Bagby said he knew of at least one publication that dealt with a crash in which a motorcycle became lodged under a truck. Such crashes are extremely rare.
The defense attorney then pointed out discrepancies in earlier hearings in the case as to when Bagby first examined the phone. Bagby said he didn't remember that, but since it's in the transcript from the earlier hearing he assumed he said it.
Hinman has argued prosecutor Esther Schlaerth will be unable to prove Reynosa was speeding or using her cellphone at the time of the crash.
But Reynosa herself admits in the audio recording she was using her cellphone at the time of the crash.
In the recording she said she's scared, then that she must have blacked out for a second before the crash.
"You know how many times I've heard that?" Bagby asked her.
He said people in car wrecks often tell him they don't remember the part of the crash that most affects them personally. He told her she was lying, and asked her what she thinks a jury's going to think when it hears she happened to black out during the most crucial part of the incident.
Reynosa responded the jury won't believe her.
Bagby eventually informed her that Wilkins had died. Reynosa cried briefly, then stopped as she continued giving different explanations about what happened. Bagby found those tears insincere.
"Is it safe to say that all your attention was on your phone?" Bagby asked her.
"Yes, it was, sir," she responded.
As the interview came to an end, Reynosa began sobbing.
"I killed a girl," she said. "I killed a girl ... I don't know how I'm going to wake up every day knowing I killed a girl."
She told Bagby she didn't care what happened to her. Bagby said Thursday he believed these last tears were genuine.