Mack Town hit & run suspect charged with murder

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

 EUREKA – The McKinleyville man accused of killing a Mack Town teenager in a hit-and-run collision near Mill Creek Marketplace faces multiple felony counts of murder and driving under the influence.

James Arthur Merrick II

James Arthur Merrick II, 47, who has a prior DUI record and is a registered out-of-state sex offender, is in Humboldt County jail pending a preliminary hearing on Jan. 3 at 9:45 p.m.

Merrick faces four felony counts: murder; DUI causing injury within 10 years of another DUI—hence no bail; DUI above the blood alcohol limit of .08; and a hit-and-run resulting in injury or death.

Merrick was arrested at the scene of the collision Wednesday, Dec. 14, which claimed the life of 16- year-old Tessa Gingerich. She was a student at Pacific Coast High School, according to the Times-Standard.

The California Highway Patrol said Gingerich died at Mad River Community Hospital shortly after she was struck down at about 8:07 p.m.

Merrick’s $1 million bail was withheld by Superior Court Judge Marilyn B. Miles at a hearing Dec. 19, on grounds he had violated his probation on the prior arrest for “reckless driving involving alcohol.”

Details of Merrick’s out-of-state sex offense are not posted on the California Megan’s Law web site.

According to the California Highway Patrol’s initial report, Gingerich was walking northbound on the east shoulder of Central Avenue, north of Anna Sparks Way.

Tessa Gingerich
Facebook photo

Merrick was turning his 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 from eastbound Anna Sparks Way onto northbound Central Avenue. He allegedly allowed the truck, which weighs in at some 4,100-5,200 pounds, “to drift off the roadway and onto the shoulder after turning onto Central Avenue.”

After striking the teenager, the truck continued eastbound on the shoulder until it ran into a light pole, the CHP said. Merrick allegedly attempted to flee, but he was detained by several witnesses until officers arrived.

The fatal McKinleyville hit-and-run of a teenager resembles the deaths of two teenage girls last July in Fortuna.

Marci Kitchen, 39, of Fortuna is free on $750,000 bail after pleading not guilty on multiple counts to colliding with her daughter Kiya and close friend Faith Lorraine Tsarnas as they skateboarded together on Fortuna’s outskirts after dark on July 12.

Like Merrick, Kitchen is accused of drunken driving but is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, not murder, among other charges. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled on March 20.      Unable to afford an attorney, Merrick will be represented by Humboldt County Conflict Counsel, appointed by Judge Miles.









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