Cell Phone Use Probed In Rohnert Park Crash That Killed Toddler

ROHNERT PARK (BCN) – The driver of a car that killed a 2-year-old girl and critically injured her mother in a marked crosswalk Wednesday might have been using her cell phone at the time of the collision, the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety said Tuesday.

Sgt. Jeff Nicks said 18-year-old Kaitlyn Dunaway, the driver of the 1997 Honda that struck the mother and daughter, acknowledged her Verizon cell phone was in use at the time but she is unsure if she was sending text messages or talking on the phone.

There are no witnesses who saw Dunaway on the phone, Nicks said.

Investigators got a search warrant Tuesday for her cell phone records from the phone company and should have them within a week or 10 days, Nicks said.

A headset that would have enabled hands-free cell phone use was not found in the Honda, Nicks said.

Ling Murray, 42, remains in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Her 2-year-old daughter Calli Murray died in the crash, which occurred around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Snyder Lane and Medical Center Drive.

The Murrays were returning to their Rohnert Park home from nearby Sunrise Park, police said. They were walking east on Snyder Lane and were in the crosswalk about 11 feet from the curb when they were struck from the car on their left, Nicks said.

The driver of another car that stopped in the left turn lane on Snyder Lane preparing to turn onto Medical Center Drive witnessed the collision, Nicks said.

The speed limit on Snyder Lane is 35 mph and Dunaway “was probably driving within the safe speed limit,” Nicks said.

“We don’t think speed was a factor,” Nicks said.

Dunaway was returning to Sonoma State University, where she is a freshman, after visiting her mother’s Rohnert Park home, Nicks said.

“She was absolutely devastated and is still devastated,” Nicks said.

The Department of Public Safety will determine the speed of the Honda and inspect it for any possible mechanical problems as part of the collision investigation, Nicks said.

Police Tuesday also were checking whether businesses near the scene had surveillance camera video of the collision, Nicks said. Police hope to submit reports to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office within the next 10 days. The district attorney’s office will decide whether charges will be filed against Dunaway.

At least one volunteer, dressed in a vest and carrying a stop sign, has been escorting pedestrians across the intersection this week.

Nicks said he is unaware of any plans for the city to install a stop sign or traffic light at the intersection.

He said at any uncontrolled intersection, it is incumbent on pedestrians and drivers to be “hyper-vigilant” and aware of their surroundings.

“Just because we are walking in a crosswalk doesn’t mean we own it and drivers need their total attention when they’re on the road,” Nicks said.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

  • Fred Sperling Jr.

    What a tragic loss of life. If this girl is found to have been using her cellphone or texting, she should be imprisoned for life without parole.

  • Michelle Vera

    What more has to happen before the dangers of cell phone use while driving is taken seriously? This family will never have a merry Christmas. The fines for cell phone use while driving should be much higher. This is a tragic story.

  • Allie

    This Cell Phone issue has become such an addiction and nuisance among teenagers and young adults..These cell phones are a nuisance at school and at home, therefore they should be banned so that others are not killed as a result from using them. This accident is so devastatingly tragic and could have been avoided had the teenager not been using her cell phone! My heart, thoughts and prayers are with the Murray family. May little Calli Rest In Paradise. I cannot stop crying for Calli and her mother!

  • Carina B.

    This is insane it was an accident!! A very tragic accident for EVERYONE INVOLVED !!! Including Kaitlyn… she has to live with this guilt. She is not a bad person and she had promising future but accidents happen and i feel that we shouldn’t ruin 3 lives. Kaitlyn is torn to pieces so how dare any of you judge this situation. I’m so tired of seeing this over and over again. Kaitlyn is also a human being and to lock her up for life for a mistake that anyone could have made is insane. You people are acting like shes a murder and purposely did it. And it hasn’t been proven that she was on her cell phone or not ! I feel terrible for the Murray Family i really due but we should take a step back and see the other side. I’m not justifying her nor am I saying she doesnt deserve a punishment but life is extreme. I grew up with this girl and she is an amazing person and everybody makes mistakes in life and although this is a BIG mistake none of us have a right to judge!!!!!!!

  • L

    I have to agree with Carina B. i don’t know Kaitlyn but this is a mistake that could have happend to anyone. to ruin 3 lives is not right.

  • Mary L

    I totally disagree with Carina B. There is no excuse for Dunaway to be using her cellphone while driving. And it doesn’t matter what type of person she is. It doesn’t make it more right if she were a good person, and it doesn’t make it more wrong if she were a bad person. It is against the law to use the cellphone while driving.

    Dunaway may have gotten away with it many times. But this time she can’t get away with it. She shouldn’t. She killed a life while stealing a chance to use her cellphone and drive at the same time. She shouldn’t be excused based on who she is or what she is. No one is above the law.

    But we shall see if the law will be upheld here. It seems the sergeant was downplaying the accident. The remarks he made give strong indications of his partiality. He claimed there was no witness who saw Dunaway on the phone. This explains she was texting. And she could be holding her cellphone and hiding it from pedestrian’s view, this way she would not be seen by anyone outside her car that she was texting. In fact, no one will raise the cellphone to text a message, unless they are looking to get pulled over by the cops.

    I am certain she was texting and was looking down on her cellphone while driving at 35mph (or maybe more) when she hit the toddler and the mother. The impact must cause her to brake, and she must have dropped her cellphone when that happened. It is also very likely she had not sent her text message. So if they looked at her cellphone bill to determine what she was doing with her cellphone, the bill may not show any data usage if her text had not been sent.

    All in all, Dunaway did wrong and she broke the law. I have no doubt she was devastated by the accident. I would be if I were her. But I would something more than show my devastation: I would surrender myself if I were her, because I know it is against the law to use the cellphone while driving, but I did it anyway No one is above the law. Regardless how devastated she was or is, regardless how much she cried and how long she cried.

    Think about the devastations of the mother and the father of the toddler she kiiled. The father had lost his job and is still out of work. Think about what this family is going through.

  • Farmer Joetwo

    say this again when a family member of yours is taken from you by a person who chose not to pay attention to the road. accidents do happen but being careless with no regards to life is not an accident. Kaitlyn knew the risks of texting/talking on a cell phone while driving and yet she chose to take that risk. Now she needs to accept the responsibility for her actions. How many more people have to get hurt before a real punishment is given out.

  • looking for logic

    “Just because we are walking in a crosswalk doesn’t mean we own it AND drivers need their total attention when they’re on the road,” Nicks said.

    I think this is the best statement anyone could make. A car is a big, heavy, fast-moving weapon. Drivers need to remember that when they are driving. Pedestrians need to keep that in mind when walking in front of one. Wait to make sure the car is going to stop!

    It’s easy to pass all the blame to the driver when a pedestrian gets hit. But I think pedestrians need to be more responsible too. I know when I’m walking with my kids, I’m not stepping out until that car coming is stopped, or clearly sees us and is coming to a stop.

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