Victim ID’d in fatal crash
A man charged with murder after his motorhome crashed head-on into a Nissan Altima has a history of vehicle-related offenses, authorities said.
According to Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, his previous record is part of the reason Raymond William Poquette, 80, was charged Friday with the murder of Jana Price, 56, of Chico.
“We couldn’t charge murder unless it was an intentional act, or if he knew the risks involved in his dangerous behavior and didn’t care,” Walsh said.
“Whenever you have (such) documented contacts over the course of years and you weren’t able to fix the problem or prevent the person from harming innocent people … it’s tragic,” he added.
Poquette was arraigned Monday afternoon on the murder charge in Nevada County Superior Court and was appointed a public defender. He did not enter a plea and remained in custody that day on a no-bail hold, Walsh said.
“The court noted on the record there are two open pending cases and in both of those, criminal proceedings have been suspended due to mental competency issues,” Walsh said, adding Poquette is set to return to court Thursday.
Poquette was arrested after his 35-foot motorhome crossed into oncoming traffic on Highway 49 near Cerrito Road late on New Year’s Eve, hitting a Nissan Altima head-on and a Dodge Charger on its side, overturning it several times, authorities have said.
Price, the driver of the Nissan, died at the scene, authorities said. The driver of the Charger was transported to Sutter Roseville Medical Center with minor injuries.
In 2009, Poquette led California Highway Patrol on a 12-mile chase on Highway 20 before his car was disabled with a spike strip. He was arrested on suspicion of evading a peace officer while operating a vehicle, reports state.
Court records show Poquette was charged with a misdemeanor evasion of a peace officer. He subsequently pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years’ court probation.
In June 2017, Poquette unsafely turned his motorhome across Highway 49 into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with another motorhome, reports state.
Poquette and the occupants of the other motorhome, Lawrence and Bonnie Kaye, were life-flighted to trauma centers in Roseville and Sacramento in serious condition.
An investigation into that collision was unable to determine a cause for the crash, California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Steele said.
“The only charge we could substantiate, due to the lack of witnesses, was crossing over the double yellow lines,” Steele said. “He was found to be at fault and it was recommended that he be cited. But the District Attorney’s Office declined to file.”
A civil case filed by the Kayes against Poquette and Caltrans remains pending, court records state.
In July 2018, Poquette was arrested on vandalism charges in Grass Valley after police said he keyed six cars along East Main Street, reports state.
“They were not able to figure out why he was doing this,” Grass Valley Police Sgt. Clint Bates said of Poquette following the incident.
A vandalism case was filed but a doubt was declared as to Poquette’s mental competency and the charge was subsequently dismissed, court records state.
In August 2019, Poquette was arrested by the CHP for driving his motorhome recklessly on Highway 49 near Alta Sierra. Poquette had side-swiped a vehicle going in the opposite direction and was stopped by Nevada County sheriff’s deputies after a short pursuit, Steele said.
A misdemeanor reckless driving charge was filed, but a doubt as to mental competency has been declared in that case as well as in an unrelated trespassing case, court records show.
According to Steele, CHP had requested a re-evaluation of Poquette’s ability to drive by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the only agency able to suspend or revoke a license barring a DUI.
“At one point they did revoke his license, but he was able to get it back,” Walsh said.
The DMV couldn’t be reached for comment.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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