An Auburn man has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with a deadly drunken boating accident last year that killed a Penn Valley mother and daughter.
Jeffrey J. Sandow, 54, surrendered to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department after prosecutors filed charges for the Sept. 15 deaths of 12-year-old Sophie Peterlin and her mother, Cynthia. Paul Peterlin, the husband and father, suffered major injuries but survived the crash on Lake Englebright in Yuba County.
Bailiffs arrested Sandow following his arraignment in Yuba County Superior Court Thursday and booked him into jail on $1 million bail. Judge Stephen W. Berrier set a bail review hearing for Wednesday.
If convicted, Sandow faces 36 years to life in prison.
“We don’t believe this is a murder case,” Sandow’s attorney, Rick Worrell, said outside the courtroom. “We believe charging two counts of murder is excessive because of the lack of intent.”
District Attorney Patrick McGrath disagreed.
“We put a lot of thought and time into the review, and we’ve had experience with (fatal) DUI cases and felt the evidence shows that based on the entirety of (Sandow’s) behavior boating that day and his level of intoxication that the charges are justified,” McGrath said.
Prosecutors said Sandow’s blood-alcohol content was .18 percent more than three hours after the collision.
The Yuba County District Attorney’s Office has won three prior murder cases involving DUI-related deaths dating back to 1987, McGrath said in a statement.
McGrath said the eight-month investigation was necessary because reconstructing the boating collision scene was a complicated process. McGrath praised the work of the Sheriff’s Department’s Technical Search and Rescue Team.
“If the collision involves boats on open water with injuries and death, it makes the investigation much more complex,” he said. “A lot of this investigation involved working under water at depth to recover portions of the vehicles.”
The Peterlin family filed a wrongful death suit against Sandow in December. Sandow’s attorneys plan to request the civil proceeding be placed on hold, pending the outcome of the criminal trial. A hearing is set for June 24.
Rob Parsons is a reporter at the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.