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.)


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