After several postponed arraignment dates, a Goleta man charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for allegedly causing a head-on crash that killed two young Lompoc women finally entered a plea last week: not guilty.
Kyle Nelson, 23, was arrested on Dec. 9 in connection with the Oct. 28 collision on State Route 1 in Gaviota that killed Jenna Corrin Causby, 19, and Dorothy Guthrie, 20.
He first appeared in court on Dec. 15 for the purpose of an arraignment, but the case was repeatedly continued for further arraignment.
Until last Thursday.
“The defendant was arraigned yesterday (Feb. 9) and pled not guilty to the charges,” Deputy District Attorney Michelle Mossembekker told the News-Press. “The case was continued to 3/2/23 … for preliminary hearing setting.”
Mr. Nelson is charged with two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one felony count of driving under the influence of any drug causing injury.
Prosecutors included a special allegation that Mr. Nelson committed the alleged crime after being released from custody either on bail or his own recognizance in connection with an unrelated case.
The complaint against him also lists aggravating factors, in that the alleged crime involved great violence, great bodily harm or other acts disclosing a high degree of cruelty, viciousness or callousness, and that the victims were particularly vulnerable.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Mr. Nelson was driving a Ford C-Max south on Route 1 at 80 mph when he approached a northbound Chevy Malibu driven by Ms. Causby. Ms. Guthrie was her passenger.
The 4 a.m. crash occurred as Mr. Nelson overtook slower southbound traffic directly ahead of his vehicle, and he allegedly chose to pass them by illegally driving over the solid double yellow line, the CHP said. He ended up driving south in the No. 1 northbound lane, directly into the path of Ms. Causby’s car.
Ms. Causby, realizing his Ford was traveling the wrong way, turned her Malibu to the right in an attempt to avoid a head-on crash. At the same time, however, Mr. Nelson turned his Ford to the left, and the front of his vehicle collided head-on with the front of her Malibu, the CHP said.
The force of the collision rotated both vehicles in a counterclockwise direction.
The Malibu was propelled to the east shoulder, where it came to rest facing a westerly direction. The Ford came to rest in the northbound lanes, facing a westerly direction.
After the collision, both vehicles became engulfed in flames.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department responded to tackle the fire and pronounced both victims dead at the scene.
Mr. Nelson sustained major injuries and was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
He was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.