Woman convicted of manslaughter in 2017 crash that killed motorcyclist on Panorama Drive

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A woman has been found guilty of a misdemeanor manslaughter charge for causing a 2017 crash in northeast Bakersfield that killed a motorcyclist.

A jury last week convicted Sara Michelle Hieronymes, 28, of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence for attempting a U-turn directly in the path of a motorcycle near Bakersfield College. The crash killed the motorcycle’s rider, Tony Christopher Juarez, 43.

Hieronymes’ sentencing hearing is scheduled July 13.

Hieronymes told police she left a class at Bakersfield College about 8:10 p.m. on Sept. 14 and walked to her Honda Accord. She had parked the car along the south curb-line of Panorama Drive, facing east.

After removing her headphones, Hieronymes said she placed her cellphone near the center console then started the car, according to police reports filed in Superior Court.

As she prepared to make a U-turn to head west, Hieronymes told police she checked for traffic and didn’t see or hear any approaching vehicles. She said she accelerated to 5 mph and the front half of the Accord had barely crossed into the roadway “when she felt a sudden and disorienting impact to the driver side,” according to the documents.

Juarez’s Harley-Davidson had hit the rear driver side of the Accord, the filings said. The impact spun the car, shattering its driver side windows and setting off air bags, and the bike sustained major damage to its front wheel and forks.

Juarez suffered head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said Juarez’s helmet appeared to have been held together by a small piece of wire and likely flew off during the collision.

Hieronymes passed sobriety tests and a preliminary alcohol screening showed no alcohol in her system, according to the filings. A search of her phone indicated it hadn’t been used near the time of the crash.

Police recommended the manslaughter charge against Hieronymes for violating two portions of the vehicle code: failing to make sure it was safe before moving right or left upon a roadway, and making a U-turn over a highway that has been divided into two or more roadways delineated by curbs, double-parallel lines or other roadway markings.

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