Parents battle in Fortuna hit & run tragedy

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

EUREKA – Compounding the despair of their teenage daughter’s July 13 hit-and-run death, divorcees Joseph and Marcia Kitchen are fighting over the custody and visitation of their 17-year-old son.

They are equally embattled over the cremated remains of their 14-year-old daughter, Kiya.

In court documents, Joseph Kitchen accuses his ex-wife of killing their daughter in the hit-and-run crash and Marcia Kitchen accuses her ex-husband of making repeated threats to kill her in retaliation.

She also claims he has a history of abusive drinking, uncontrolled anger and violent behavior.

A hearing is set in family law court Aug. 17 on Joseph Kitchen’s requests to secure physical custody of his son and obtain a domestic violence restraining order against Marcia Kitchen to keep her at least 100 yards (300 feet) away from both father and son.

In the court documents, he blames his ex-wife unequivocally for the death of their daughter, although no charges have been filed. The mother won physical custody of both son and daughter when the Kitchens divorced in October 2007.

Explaining his request, Joseph Kitchen states, “It has been alleged, and Marcia Kitchen admitted to me, that she hit Kiya Kitchen with her vehicle.”

He goes on to state, “The community and our family are distraught and furiously angry with Marcia Kitchen for the death of my daughter Kiya, as well as the death of Kiya’s friend, Faith Tsarnas.”

Echoing the ancient Greek myth of Medea, who killed her children, Joseph Kitchen adds that his son “does not want to see his mother and is traumatized by the sudden and dramatic death of his sister at the hands of his mother.”

The father claims in the court documents that his son “does not want to be returned to Marcia Kitchen’s custody during the investigation and prosecution of this case. [He] wants to remain with his father ... during this tremendously difficult time. [He] has been with his father since July 19,” seven days after the two girls were fatally struck down.

In writing, Joseph Kitchen voices his fear that “Marcia Kitchen may attempt to abscond from the county with our son, rather than face felony prosecution.”

He alleges that in the immediate aftermath of the collision, “Marcia Kitchen returned home [to 1982 Becker Lane, Fortuna] and met [their son].” She allegedly told the minor, “He may not speak with police and is dissuading him to make a statement about the incident to the police. [The son] is suffering extreme emotional distress due to this incident.”

According to the father, Marcia Kitchen sought to enlist her son as an ally in the investigation. (She and her son lived together in the wake of the 2007 divorce, which was based on irreconcilable differences). She, in turn, accuses her ex-husband of wielding undue influence over the boy.

Joseph Kitchen states in the legal forms he filed that his son was at home when his mother returned from the fatal accident on the night of July 12. The boy witnessed “what happened in the Kitchen home that evening immediately after the hit-and-run,” but did not know at that point that his mother was the driver. Joseph Kitchen implies that his ex-wife pretended innocence to their son.

The California Highway Patrol has made no arrest in the investigation, which is entering its fourth week. But it has described Marcia Kitchen as a “party of interest” in the deaths of her daughter and her closest girlfriend, 14-year-old Faith Lorraine Tsarnas, who died at the scene of the collision. Kiya Kitchen died the next morning, July 13, at 6:30 in an Oakland hospital.

The girls were skateboarding together on July 12 at 9:16 p.m. when Marcia Kitchen’s 2015 gray Jeep Wrangler allegedly ran them down on Eel River Drive, south of Kenmar Road on Fortuna’s outskirts, according to the CHP. Investigators have not reported who was behind the wheel.

In a separate court filing, Marcia Kitchen rejected the request for a restraining order, in which Joseph Kitchen seeks to revoke the mother’s visitation rights and prevent her from traveling or moving anywhere in the county, state or nation. She also is blocked from attempting to obtain a passport or other travel documents.    

All parts of the restraining order are in force until the Aug. 17 family court hearing.

The father seeks “personal conduct” and “stay away” orders against his ex-wife, to prevent her from harassing, threatening, following, stalking or surveilling either his son, himself or anyone else.

The stay away request forces Marcia Kitchen to remain at least 100 yards (300 feet) clear of her ex-husband’s person, home, workplace, vehicle, school and day care/child care facilities.

Represented by Eureka attorney Benjamin Okin, Marcia Kitchen is required by law to abide by the temporary domestic violence restraining order, despite rejecting it. She also rejected the child custody request.

In her written rebuttal to her ex-husband’s court submission, she states the following:

• “I have in no way dissuaded my son [name omitted by the editor] from talking to law enforcement; that allegation is hearsay from Joseph, my ex-husband, and is patently false.”

• “Even with the pending investigation, [my son] has spent several nights with me, absent any conflict, in a supportive environment with myself, friends and family members (including a member of Joseph’s family).”

• My son “is 17 years old and turning 18 years old in December. I trust him to make his own decisions who to have contact with, especially when it comes to his parents.”

• My son’s “choice should be made without the overbearing influence of his father. Since the death of our daughter, Joseph has been trying to improperly influence [our son] and has made several threats that he is going to kill me. Joseph has a current and past history of anger control issues, alcohol abuse and intentionally violent behavior.”                 

In addition to these fraught issues, the divorcees are contesting the disposition of their daughter’s remains. As first reported last week by John Chiv’s Words Worth blog, the two must decide on whether to remand the ashes in full to one or the other, or to divide them.

In the meantime, the stalled arrest of Marcia Kitchen has raised a flurry of questions.

Highway Patrol officers did not arrest Kitchen on July 12, although they “contacted” her at the scene. It has not emerged whether the contact was in person, via cell phone or through a third party.

As the month of August advances, the public has yet to learn if investigators have confirmed that Kitchen or the CHP’s other “party of interest,” her reported boyfriend, Joshua Wren Pearlston, was behind the wheel. Both remain wanted for questioning.

The highway patrol also has not said whether Marcia Kitchen, Pearlston or both were given Breathalyzer tests.

The CHP and Marcia Kitchen’s lawyer, Okin, remain deadlocked over legal status. The highway patrol has published repeated complaints that Marcia Kitchen “has not made herself available to investigators.”

Yet Okin is adamant that “our client remains willing to surrender herself to law enforcement immediately.”

The highway patrol has not explained why Marcia Kitchen has to be “made available” rather than taken into custody and charged. Marcia  Kitchen’s attorneys have not clarified why they have not simply turned their client over to investigators instead of carrying on the protracted dispute over which party should make the first move.


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  1. 2016 Draft Options said:

    Terrible mother figure who shows that her immaturity to run and hide suggest she isnor mentally fit or competent to have custody of a child, let alone a pet gerbel.

  2. ksw said:

    no matter what they say is wrong with eel river drive??that mother ran her daughter and her friend over them left them to die…she belongs in jail. ….the road didn’t make her leave the seen …

  3. Leslie Mashmann said:

    What is going on with the police? This is not the only case where they are dragging their feet. A jury can decide if Mom hit the girls. There is no justice for anyone here.

  4. diane said:

    how can a person like that not be behind bars?? what the hell is wrong with the police there.if it were anyone else they would of made an arrest when they found the vehicle! whats the problem?? does anyone not see the bs here…..give those girls and the dad and brother justice for Christs sake!!!

  5. Pingback: Hit and Run Mom and Ex-Husband Headed To Family Court | Umbrella of Suspicion

  6. Pingback: Hit and Run Mom and Ex-Husband Headed To Family Court | Umbrella of Suspicion

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