Recording: Alleged texting driver says she was distracted by but not using her phone at time of crash
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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
In a telephone conversation played for the jury in a Kern County Superior Court courtroom Wednesday, Anna Marie Reynosa cried and repeatedly told an investigator she was telling the truth: She wasn't on her cellphone when she crashed her pickup into a motorcycle two years ago, killing its rider.
It's clear from the tape recording that Bakersfield police Detective Chris Bagby didn't believe Reynosa, partly because she'd previously given various conflicting stories as to what she'd been doing when the crash occurred on April 14, 2012. She gave five different versions, among them: she was merely looking down at the phone; she was checking a text message; and she was writing a text message.
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He told her he didn't want to hear any more lies, according to the May 2, 2012, phone call played during the ninth day of Reynosa's trial. She's charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
Reynosa, 22, said during the recorded call she was distracted by but not using her phone when she drove her Toyota Tacoma into the rear of 20-year-old Charla Wilkins' motorcycle. The crash occurred at 8:37 p.m. at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road in northwest Bakersfield.
She said she wasn't sure how fast she'd been traveling, but believed she'd been going the speed limit.
Bagby stopped her. He told her that her entire future hinged on what she told him now; she wouldn't get another chance.
The evidence didn't support anything she was telling him, he told her. If she didn't tell the truth now, he would submit his report and point out every instance where she was lying.
She again told him she was telling the truth.
"You're being as honest as you think you can be without telling the truth," Bagby responded.
Her protests that she was traveling the speed limit were a "huge lie," Bagby said on the recording. Police have estimated Reynosa was traveling between 63 mph and 68 mph when she hit Wilkins, who was stopped at a stop sign facing north on Jewetta.
The posted speed limit at that location is 45 mph.
Another point of contention was Reynosa's claim she didn't know anyone named "Nick," even though her phone listed a contact by that name. Police believe Reynosa was drafting a text message to Nick when the crash occurred.
A partial message to Nick reading "Hey can" was found on the phone. There's no time stamp on it.
Deputy Public Defender Ernest Hinman, Reynosa's attorney, has argued prosecutor Esther Schlaerth will be unable to prove that Reynosa was speeding or texting at the time of the crash. He called an accident reconstruction specialist to the stand who testified it was his opinion Reynosa was traveling 45 mph or less at impact.
Hinman has argued it's impossible to prove the "Nick" message was being composed when the crash occurred. He said there were no missed calls or unread text messages found on the phone from before the crash, and no outgoing texts corresponding with the time it's believed the pickup hit the motorcycle.
The trial resumes Thursday. Reynosa faces up to six years in prison if convicted.