Felony charge filed in crash that killed motorcycle rider

Felony charge filed in crash that killed motorcycle rider »Play Video
Charla Wilkins, who is seen in a provided photo, was killed April 14, 2012, when her motorcycle was rear-ended by a pickup at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road in Bakersfield.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A 20-year-old woman could get a six-year prison term for texting while she was driving. Anna Marie Reynosa is accused of being distracted, and causing a deadly crash in April.

Reynosa, 20, was arrested Thursday morning on one felony charge of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

"She was driving in excess of the speed limit, she did not stop at a stop sign," Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn told Eyewitness News. "And, all during that entire time she was using her cell phone."

The crash on April 14, took the life of 20-year-old Charla Wilkins at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road. Wilkins was riding her motorcycle, and was hit by Reynosa's pickup truck.

"She was completely distracted, distracted by her cell phone," Yraceburn said. "Texting is the primary thing we believe she was doing."

As of Thursday night, Reynosa was listed in custody.

"It seems obvious that a person cannot watch their cellphone and watch the road at the same time, but many people seem to want to put that cellphone call or text message ahead of their own safety and the safety of others," Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said in a news release.

Drivers say they are frustrated at the dangers they see with texting behind the wheel.

"I drive the canyon," Mtn. Mesa resident Guy Kerley said. "I see people driving and texting," That's on the dangerous, narrow stretch of Highway 178.

"It's a distraction, and it's a choice distraction," Yraceburn said. "Obviously there's something more important on that text message than making sure that 3,000 pounds of steel don't hit something else."

Yraceburn and other experts say drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 are the most vulnerable to this distraction.

"I know some people are, like, addicted to it," McFarland resident Martha Vargas said. She sees plenty of drivers texting on that cell phone. She has advice for "addicts."

"If you're one of those persons, put your phone away," Vargas said. "Maybe put it in your purse in the back seat where you can't reach it."

California has a law specifically banning texting while driving. It took effect in January, 2009. That actually followed a law that went on the books in 2008 which requires drivers to use only a "hands-free" wireless device.

Under the "no texting" law, it's an infraction to write, send or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communication device, like a cell phone, while driving, according to California government website.

Friends say Charla Wilkins loved her motorcycle. She had safety gear on the night she was hit, but that couldn't save her life.

Yraceburn said Bakersfield police officers investigating the crash found a "minute amount" of alcohol in Reynosa's system, but determined she was "not impaired" by that.

The texting is blamed for distraction that led to the deadly crash. That could spell a six-year prison sentence.

"If they're texting while driving, causing an accident -- then they should pay the consequences," Guy Kerley said. "And if that's prison time, then so be it."

Martha Vargas agrees. "If you do kill someone in a car accident, I think you should be held responsible," she said.