Witnesses said a yellow boat was traveling extremely fast, “screaming down the lake” in the wrong direction before striking another boat, launching itself 10 feet in the air and killing a Lake of the Pines mother and child in the other boat.
That was some of the testimony Tuesday in Yuba County Superior Court, where prosecutors argued Jeffrey Joel Sandow, 55, of Auburn, murdered Cynthia Peterlin, 42, and Sophie Peterlin, 12, when he drove his speedboat while drunk on Englebright Lake on Sept. 15, 2012.
Sandow had a blood alcohol level of .18 four hours after the collision. The legal limit is .08.
Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter ordered Sandow to stand trial on two counts of second-degree murder with enhancements for causing great bodily injury to Paul Peterlin, 42.
In addition, Sandow is charged with two counts of operating a vessel with gross negligence, and one count of operating a vehicle while under the influence, causing great bodily injury.
If convicted, the minimum sentence possible for just counts one and two is 36 years in prison.
He could be sentenced to two terms of life in prison.
Sandow is scheduled to be arraigned March 17. He is also facing a civil suit by the Peterlin family.
On Tuesday, an investigator testified that one witness, who was riding in another boat with his brother, saw the yellow boat approaching them at high speed.
“It appeared to him that the boat was playing chicken with him,” said Stephanie Johnson, investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
She said when their boat attempted to turn right and then left to avoid a collision with Sandow, Sandow’s yellow boat would mirror their movement.
Deputy Detective Mark Claar testified that a woman on a party barge on the lake told him that the yellow boat passed them in an unsafe manner, “very fast and very close.”
Deputy District Attorney Michele Cook said the witness accounts “demonstrates a conscious disregard for human life.”
Defense attorney Rick Worrell argued that Sandow, while drunk, “wasn’t acting in conscious disregard for the safety of others,” and should be charged with vehicular manslaughter, not second-degree murder.
The minimum sentence for one count of vehicular manslaughter is 11 years.
Worrell said Sandow “was enjoying a family outing (before the) tragic accident, adding, “Those consequences … were the result of his mistaken belief that he can operate his vehicle safely.”
Wirtschafter said simply driving intoxicated may not give rise to murder.
But there was sufficient evidence for malice aforethought, he ruled, because while in the hospital, Paul Peterlin “spoke of taking evasive action on two cases to avoid interaction with this defendant.”
Monica Vaughan is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.