Vehicular manslaughter case dismissed
July 26, 2011
A vehicular manslaughter case has been dropped against the woman who struck and killed well-known bicyclist Jim Rogers.
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wood dismissed the charges against Chicago Park resident Patricia Hernandez, saying the decision was based both on inconclusive evidence and the wishes of Rogers’ family.
Hernandez, 55, struck and killed Rogers on Highway 174 near Colfax on Jan. 31, 2010.
Rogers, 53, of Grass Valley, was riding his bicycle up the steep, winding and narrow grade on Highway 174 from the Bear River toward Colfax when Hernandez’s vehicle struck his bicycle from behind, according to the California Highway Patrol. He sustained major head trauma even though he was wearing a helmet.
Hernandez appeared to have been distracted just before she hit Rogers on the side of the road at about 12:15 p.m., but no gross negligence was found.
“The case was dismissed for a couple of different reasons,” Wood said. “With the evidence, it would have been difficult … The evidence did suggest she was on the phone, but it was inconclusive … The facts are somewhat contested on both sides.
“And a lot of (the decision) was based on meetings with the family,” Wood added. “The emotional strain on them was tremendous, especially the parents. They just wanted it to stop. They feel she has already gone though quite a bit herself.”
“It was our wish to have (the case) dismissed,” Rogers’ widow, Carolyn Jones-Rogers, confirmed Tuesday.
The legal proceedings had been dragging in the 17 months since Rogers’ death, in part because Hernandez’s initial attorney died two weeks before the case was set to go to trial, in November.
“It’s been tortuous,” Jones-Rogers said.
Rogers’ widow has chosen to direct her energies toward advocacy, rather than prosecution.
“It’s not so much about Patricia Hernandez any more – it’s about saving other people’s lives,” Jones-Rogers said.
Hernandez “is either an incredible actress, which I don’t think she is … She’s remorseful,” Jones-Rogers said. “It was an accident.”
Beyond remorse, Jones-Rogers said she wants to encourage Hernandez to work with her to educate the community on the dangers of distracted driving.
“What’s done is done,” she said. “I would love for her to join us … You would have to be strong, to get up there and say, ‘I killed a man on accident.’ … I’d like to think I could.”
Earlier this year, Jones-Rogers and her son, Nate, worked with Nevada Union High School senior Christa Baker to put on two assemblies to about 800 students on the dangers of distracted driving.
“It felt powerful and it felt really cool,” Jones-Rogers said. “It was so neat to have a senior and a junior up there, you could have heard a pin drop.”
Jones-Rogers said Nate is planning to expand the assemblies to other schools for his own senior project this coming year, collaborating with other students.
“I want to make it so other people are aware of how dangerous (distracted driving) is,” she said.
One of Jones-Rogers’ projects has been to distribute stop sign-shaped stickers reminding motorists to “Remember Jim Rogers: Save Lives” by ignoring the cell phone while driving; she said she has passed out at least 6,000 stickers and just ordered another 5,000.
“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and told me their phone will ring while they’re driving, and they’ll see the sticker and not pick it up,” she said.
Working on education has helped her deal with the emotional fallout of Rogers’ death, she said.
“Our community has been so amazing,” Jones-Rogers said. “That’s when I cry, when I think about all the things people have done to support us. We’re so blessed to live here.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4229.