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No contest plea leads to probation

Harold Kruger
Special to The Union

A Penn Valley man was placed on two years of informal probation Friday after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

Yuba County Superior Court Judge Stephen Berrier also ordered Tye Randall Casto, 20, to perform 240 hours in the county sheriff’s Work Alternative Program.

Casto was charged in the May 2012 death of Tyler Balke, 18, of Grass Valley, one of three passengers in a 2001 Jeep Cherokee Casto was driving in a gravel area under the Parks Bar Bridge on Timbuctoo Road.

Balke was sitting on the right rear passenger window ledge and was halfway out of the Jeep when a turn caused the vehicle to roll to the right on top of him.

Balke died of internal injuries at the scene, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The others in the vehicle were uninjured.

In a report to Berrier, April Sonnenburg, a deputy probation officer, said it was “a tragic incident for all involved. The victim lost his life, in part because he was not properly restrained in (Casto’s) vehicle. Had (Casto) refused to have driven his car until his passengers were wearing their seat belts, he would likely not be before the court.”

In a statement to Sonnenburg, Casto said he hoped “to not end up on probation or go to jail.” He wants to join the U.S. Coast Guard.

Casto “wants to avoid any type of consequence,” Sonnenburg wrote.

“That is not possible. While (he) understandably wants to move forward with his life, he must come to terms with the fact he contributed to the death of one of his friends, a young man who also had his whole life ahead of him.”

As part of the sentence, Berrier gave Casto one day in jail.

Casto was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, Sonnenburg wrote.

Balke, however, had a blood alcohol level of .24 percent — three times the legal limit — and the presence of marijuana in his system, Sonnenburg said, citing the autopsy report.

Harold Kruger is a reporter at the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.

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