The California Highway Patrol on Thursday said that, based upon evidence gathered thus far, 28-year-old John Roderick Dungan intentionally drove his vehicle into the opposite lane of traffic in the head-on crash that killed a Solvang woman and her two children.
Capt. Cindy Pontes made the announcement during a press conference held at the CHP headquarters in Goleta.
“This incident was 100 percent intentional in our opinion, based on the evidence that we have,” she said.
The crash occurred at approximately 4:45 p.m. Oct. 25 on State Route 154 just east of the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge. Vanessa Bley, 34, was traveling east on the 154 when her vehicle was struck head on by a Chevy Camaro driven by Mr. Dungan. Ms. Bley and her two children – 2-year-old Lucienne Gleason and four-month-old Desmond Gleason – were killed in the crash.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends who are grieving their tragic loss,” Capt. Pontes said.
Prior to the press conference, Capt. Pontes and other members of the CHP met with Ms. Bley’s husband, Max Gleason, and his family to provide them with updated information and to answer their questions. Capt. Pontes said the family asked that the meeting remain private but said that authorities “just sat in their grief.”
Mr. Dungan, who suffered critical injuries in the crash and was airlifted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, was released from the hospital Tuesday evening and arrested. He was initially being held on $2 million bail, though he is now being held without bail, Capt. Pontes said.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Dungan was charged with three counts of murder. He also faces enhancements for committing crimes while out on bail and for committing a serious felony, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley said her office has not chosen a murder degree for the charges.
Several search warrants have been served in connection with the investigation into the deadly crash, including warrants at Mr. Dungan’s residence, Capt. Pontes said, adding that the final report on the collision has yet to be completed.
“It will be a few months before our investigation is complete,” Capt. Pontes said.
Mr. Dungan has not been interviewed by investigators as of Thursday afternoon, she added.
Blood samples have been obtained to determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash.
Reports have indicated that Mr. Dungan was suicidal and homicidal and left a suicide note prior to the crash, though Capt. Pontes was unable to confirm those reports.
“The facts of this case will stay with this case, and whatever other cases that he’s facing, those facts will be with those cases,” she said.
Authorities said there was no prior connection between Mr. Dungan and Ms. Bley.
Next week, the CHP will meet with 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who attended Thursday’s press conference, to discuss safety issues on the 154.
So far this year, the CHP has written more than 1,400 tickets for drivers on the 154 for violations such as speeding, following too close, or passing unsafely. There have also been 55 DUI-related arrests on the roadway, Capt. Pontes said.
“My message to people is really that we have to, as drivers, take ownership of the fact that every time we get behind the wheel we have armed ourselves with a deadly weapon and that if we don’t take that seriously and aren’t responsible behind the wheel, then our lives are in danger and the lives of everyone else are in danger,” she said.
The CHP has increased enforcement on the 154 in recent weeks. The Santa Barbara area CHP has dedicated an officer to the roadway.
“We definitely want the motorists to feel safe and know that we’re out there,” Capt. Pontes said.
Before taking questions from the media, Capt. Pontes praised first responders who squelched a small brush fire near the scene of the crash, as well as members of the public who stopped to assist.
“They were both amazing and remarkable,” Capt. Pontes said. “They placed their own lives in peril attempting to save the lives of others. We know that our community is still hurting and they will be for a very long time. You are all in our thoughts and our prayers during this tough time.”
Anyone with information that could assist investigators is asked to call 805-967-1234.