Arraignment set for hit-and-run suspect
Accused of killing a fellow North Tahoe resident last summer while driving under the influence of alcohol, Joseph Santen has been ordered to appear for his arraignment next month.
During the preliminary hearing Wednesday, defense and prosecuting attorneys questioned nine Placer County sheriff’s and California Highway Patrol witnesses, ending with a ruling from Superior Court Commissioner Trilla Bahrke ordering Santen to an arraignment hearing where he’ll be formally presented with his six charges.
The arraignment is scheduled for July 16 in Auburn, where Santen is expected to enter a “not guilty” plea and the judge to set a trial date, said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran.
Santen, 36, faces felony charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and hit-and-run with injury or death.
He is also being held for a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license.
If he is convicted of the murder count, the Tahoe City resident could be sentenced to 15 years to life, Cattran said in a phone interview Thursday.
Plus he could get an additional eight months for hit-and-run, the prosecutor added.
While Santen was driving home from playing cards at the casinos in Crystal Bay on July 16, 2006, Placer County Sheriff’s deputies allege he hit 27-year-old bicyclist Brad Reilly with his Jeep and continued to drive west to his Tahoe City home, dragging the mangled bicycle with him nearly a mile from where Reilly’s body was discovered by passersby.
Placer Sheriff Sgt. Michael Lyke was the first officer on scene just after 11 that evening and attended to Reilly. Reilly appeared to have sustained significant injuries from a collision, officers said, and Lyke worked to clear Reilly’s airway.
“He was basically drowning in blood at that point,” Lyke told the court Wednesday.
Reilly was pronounced dead from blunt force trauma at Washoe Medical Center less than three days after the collision.
Investigators discovered a pair of shoes and a California license plate in the Lake Forest area and bicycle pieces further down Highway 28.
According to Placer Sheriff deputies’ testimony at Wednesday’s prelim, they used the license plate found at the scene to locate Santen’s residence on the 1300 block of North Lake Boulevard early in the morning of July 17. There they discovered a car covered with a blue tarp and Santen standing in just his boxer shorts at the top of the driveway.
“He expressed some remorse … [He said] ‘I’m very concerned for the person also involved in the accident,'” Placer deputy Matthew Winczner testified.
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