Mad River Union
EUREKA – “I did it, I did this. I killed her; I killed them both.”
These are the words Jevin Kitchen testified that he heard his mother say as the two stood together grieving with his father Joseph.
The three were gazing in disbelief in an Oakland hospital last July at the body of sister and daughter, Kiya Kitchen, 14.
“We were crying and just in so much shock,” Jevin Kitchen testified this afternoon, May 9. “We really didn’t know what to do.
At some point as they mourned together, “My mom spoke up: ‘I did this, I did this. I killed her; I killed them both.’”
Marci Kitchen, 39, wiped her eyes with a tissue at the defense table as her son, 18, made the revelations on the witness stand.
“My dad just stared at her,” Jevin added. “He said... ” and didn’t finish his sentence.
With his mother’s confession, Jevin said his immediate feelings were in conflict. In a way, he felt relief because he no longer had to keep secret from his father what had happened to his sister and her close friend, Faith Tsarnas, also 14, visiting from San Diego.
He testified that his mother had asked him to tell no one anything about the fatal collision that led to vehicular manslaughter charges against her last September.
She allegedly made the request for secrecy as they talked while Kiya was being treated at Redwood Memorial before she was airlifted to Oakland Children’s Hospital, where she died July 13.
Equally, Jevin said he was devastated as well as bitterly relieved. Kiya had taught him to skateboard. They had been companions skateboarding together often, up and down rural Eel River Road on the outskirts of Fortuna. The motor way had a long straight stretch with high visibility and a new, smooth surface.
Jevin disclosed his mother’s mortifying attempts last July to enlist him in covering up the hit-and-run deaths of his sister and her close friend Faith Tsarnas. Marci Kitchen is charged with vehicular manslaughter after allegedly plowing into both girls head-on, from behind.
The crushing impact hurled the teenagers 300-350 feet at dusk along Eel River Road. The force and mass of the collision’s impact – a Jeep Wrangler weighs 3,760 to 4,300 lbs. – were so extreme that the front bumper and license frame of Marci Kitchen’s gray Jeep Wrangler left imprints of “Lithia” and numerical denotations on Tsarnas’s buttocks and lower legs, according to law enforcement investigators and photographs taken at the crime scene.
Given a shoulder squeeze of encouragement by his father as he was about to be sworn in Tuesday afternoon, Jevin Kitchen recalled that he heard his mother call out “please come help” at the front door of their Fortuna home, shortly after 9:16 p.m. on July 12. He had been upstairs with a friend playing a video game when he heard her summons.
“I came rushing out” to find the front of the Jeep “completely destroyed; it was in horrible condition,” Jevin testified.
His mother revealed the help she was seeking. She asked her teenage son to retrieve a 7 pound bag of untrimmed marijuana from the Wrangler.
He did as she asked and threw it over the back fence into some berry bushes.
“I was in shock also and when I came back I tried to get a clear answer about what had happened,” he testified
None was forthcoming from his mother.
And then Marci handed the keys to her son and asked him to ram the smashed front of the Jeep, including a shattered windshield, into the supports of his basketball hoop.
“I refused,” he told a rapt courtroom. It has been nearly full with loved ones from both the Tsarnas and Kitchen families for the first two days of the preliminary hearing.
“I told her that was a stupid idea,” Jevin Kitchen stated firmly.
He put in, “She was behaving very strangely.”
Sipping water often, answering questions from Deputy District Attorney Stacey Eads, Kitchen elaborated on his mother’s behavior.
“She was in a lot of shock, kind of all over the place.”
Did she smell of alcohol? Eads asked.
“Yes, easily,” Jevin answered. “I’ve been around her long enough to know to be able to say she’s drunk.”
As he drew up on the front steps from his bedroom, Jevin saw his mother behind the wheel of the Jeep with a lifelong San Diego friend in the front passenger’s seat, Trent Stewart. He had arrived by plane at the airport in McKinleyville that morning, July 12, at about 10:30 a.m.
Unknown to Jevin Kitchen at that point, his mother and Stewart had just come from the crime scene; the 911 call had been transmitted minutes before, at 9:16 p.m.
Stewart testified ahead of Jevin Tuesday afternoon and said he had gotten extremely drunk at a bar earlier in the evening, where Marci "only drank water."
He and Marci had stopped on the shoulder of Eel River Road after the collision for perhaps one to three minutes, and then left the scene and headed for her house. A California Highway Patrol officer pursued the Jeep but lost sight of it, not knowing who was inside.
Jevin quoted his mother telling him that she thought she had hit either a deer or a pole. “She was back and forth; she didn’t really give a clear answer,” he said.
Stewart, Marci’s visiting friend, testified that she drank nothing but water at an unidentified “dive bar” where the two had met up with her boyfriend, Josh Pearlston, hours before the lethal collision. Stewart said he believed Pearlston drank rum and cokes, but after three or four beers of his own, he either passed out or blacked out and didn’t wake up until the Jeep collided with the two teenagers.
Jevin quoted Stewart telling him at the house, minutes after the crash and moments before Jevin rushed to Eel River Road only a mile away in a friend’s car, that Marci had slammed into two girls in bikinis. (Faith Tsarnas was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, Kiya Kitchen a T-shirt and grey sweatpants.)
Actually, Jevin stated, Stewart referred to the 14-year-olds as “two hoochies.”