Kitchen manslaughter prelim set for Dec. 5

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

EUREKA – Marcia Kitchen, 39, charged with two hit-and-run deaths, including her daughter’s, last July in Fortuna, is scheduled to appear for her preliminary hearing in Humboldt County Superior Court on Dec. 5.

Given the extensive discovery of evidence involved, however, a postponement of the pretrial proceeding is a distinct possibility.

One of Kitchen’s attorneys, Eureka criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Okin, said in a courtside interview last week that he had received some 210 pages of evidentiary documents to date, with many more expected, including the reports of various investigative agencies. Okin said photographs and video recordings are still being gathered as well.

Kitchen.WebIn legalese, discovery is a pretrial procedure in which the prosecution and the defense exchange evidence in the form of admissions, depositions, interrogatories and the like.

When discovery is completed, Okin will do his own investigation of the case, possibly with the assistance of outside experts. That could lead to delays in the December preliminary hearing and the start of Kitchen’s trial.

In the meantime, the state and defense are slated to meet Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. for an “intervention,” a closed conference on the next steps the parties will take in the high profile case. That might prompt the defense to seek a continuance of the December preliminary hearing if discovery is incomplete or other issues arise.

Kitchen is free on $750,000 bail, accused under Count 1 of the gross vehicular manslaughter of her daughter Kiya Kitchen and her daughter’s close friend Faith Lorraine Tsarnas, both 14, last July 12 at about 9:15 p.m. The girls were skateboarding when Marcia Kitchen’s 2015 gray Jeep Wrangler is reported to have collided with them on Eel River Drive south of Kenmar Road on the outskirts of Fortuna.

Also under Count 1, Kitchen faces so-called “special allegations” of fleeing the scene and inflicting “great bodily harm” to Tsarnas.

Under Count 2, Kitchen is accused of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, “with [a] special allegation of great bodily injury” to her daughter, Kiya. According to law enforcement, the child suffered a brain injury leaving her comatose and paralyzed before she died the next morning, July 13, in an Oakland hospital.

A second special allegation under Count 2 charges Kitchen with causing “great bodily injury or death” to Tsarnas.

Following execution of a search warrant, Kitchen’s Jeep was recovered by detectives on July 13, in the fenced backyard behind a gate at Kitchen’s residence on Becker Lane in Fortuna.

Initially, the California Highway Patrol named Kitchen’s reputed boyfriend, Joshua Wren Pearlston, a second “party of interest” wanted for questioning.

Okin and the CHP were deadlocked for weeks over Kitchen’s and Pearlston’s whereabouts following the brutal collision on July 12. The highway patrol issued repeated public complaints that Kitchen had not “made herself available to investigators” but Okin insisted “our client remains willing to surrender herself to law enforcement immediately.” Eventually officers did interview Pearlston.

As Okin had promised all along, Kitchen did surrender voluntarily on the evening of Sept. 14 to the District Attorney’s office. She was arraigned the next day.

Fending off public complaints that the investigation was taking too long and that Kitchen should have been arrested promptly, the highway patrol asked for patience, saying the complexity of the case necessarily prolonged the inquiry.

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