Police stake out DUI offenders before they repeat

November 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Every year during the holidays, police go all-out to get drunks off the road, but this year authorities in one Bay Area county are going about it a little differently.

In March of 2005, Kathryn Black went for a bike ride. She set out from her in-laws' Windsor home and took a break two miles later on the wide shoulder of Mark West Springs Road. Minutes earlier, Joseph Lynchard had wrapped up a morning of drinking at his brother's bar. He lost control of his Ford F-150 around a corner.

"He careened into the back of her going 45 - 50 miles an hour. Killed Kathy instantly," said Lynn Darst, a member of MADD.

Kathy left behind husband Hugh and their 5-year-old daughter Ashley.

Lynchard had six prior DUI convictions before he killed Kathy and hours after making bail, he was issued a temporary license. He's now serving a 15-to-life sentence for second degree murder for Kathy's death.

Kathy's mother in law Lynn Darst is a victim's advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"When this first happened in March, I thought somehow Joseph Lynchard had slipped through the cracks, but since I've been with MADD, I've learned it happens every day," said Lynn.

Windsor resident Robert James Feenan is a habitual DUI offender with 12 convictions. Last year a judge suspended a four-year prison term in lieu of one year in a residential treatment program.

Feenan is on the Petaluma Police Department's list of known repeat DUI offenders; they have a stakeout program designed to keep track of habitual offenders.

In July it netted Bo Anthony O'Keefe. He had two priors and for this third arrest, he got six months in a treatment program and has to have an ignition lock installed in his car.

Michael Dennis Carney was also arrested by Petaluma police in July for this fourth DUI he was sentenced to seven months in jail.

"Removing somebody from the community for an extended period of time takes them out of the equation so that's a good thing. But the bottom line is they're going to be back in the community. So if the root cause is not addressed, then the behavior is going to repeat itself," said Sonoma County D.A.Stephan Passalacqua.

Like the Petaluma police, the Sonoma County District Attorney's office is going the extra mile.

It has a special DUI court, with a dedicated judge, prosecutor and defender, some offenders are ordered to wear an ankle monitor that alerts probation if it senses alcohol, and the D.A. is taking the courtroom into the high schools.

"We've taken people who've pleaded guilty, maybe a prior or two, and they'll come in handcuffs, wearing the jumpsuit, the judge is there in a black robe, there's a prosecutor and they're sentenced in the auditorium," said Passalacqua.

Petaluma police just got a state grant to continue its stakeout program, which includes watching for offenders with suspended or revoked licenses who try to get behind the wheel in the courthouse parking lot.

That 12-time DUI offender, Robert Feenan, was just again arrested last weekend for another DUI, while driving on his suspended license.


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