Mad River Union
EUREKA – Marci Kitchen, 39, the Fortuna mother charged with vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of two 14-year-old girls, one of them her daughter, is scheduled to stand trial starting Monday, Nov. 13.
Her attorneys expect the trial to extend well into December, given a lengthy juror questionnaire and jury selection; the defense team’s plan to call a series of expert witnesses on Kitchen’s behalf; and the intervening Thanksgiving holiday.
Conceivably, the trial could edge into the Christmas season, a prospect that might prompt some prospective jurors to ask to be excused if the trial would disrupt long-planned holiday travel commitments.
Prior court testimony at the preliminary hearing last month documented Kitchen’s private admissions that she allegedly Kiya Kitchen and her close friend Faith Tsarnas in an alleged drunken hit-and-run collision on Fortuna’s outskirts in July. Her teenage son testified against her at the preliminary examination, alleging that his mother attempted to enlist him in a cover up minutes after the accident, asking him to smash her 2015 Jeep Wrangler into an anchored basketball hoop at home. She allegedly put out a story that she believed she had struck a deer and that accounted for the extensive damage to the Jeep.
The two girls were skateboarding together as daylight faded on July 12 on a straight stretch of Eel River Road with high visibility, according to testimony.
Tsarnas was dead at the scene; Kitchen’s daughter Kiya died early the next morning at an Oakland hospital.
The California Highway Patrol investigation found that the girls were thrown 300 to 350 feet, the full length of a football field or more.
That fact led to law enforcement’s conclusion that Kitchen struck the girls at a high rate of speed; the CHP found no evidence that Kitchen tried to brake or swerve. She hit the girls from behind, essentially flush. They had no chance to leap out of the way of the oncoming vehicle, which weighs 3,800 to 4,200 pounds.
Despite her alleged private admissions of responsibility, Kitchen has adhered steadfastly to her not guilty plea to multiple charges of vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving causing death and special allegations of hit-and-run and injuring multiple victims.
Kitchen is free on $750,000 bail, as she has been since she turned herself in belatedly in September.