Hit-and-run driver sentenced for pedestrian's death in Santa Rosa

June 5, 2013 8:19:44 PM PDT
A Santa Rosa man who stuck and killed a pedestrian with his vehicle and fled the scene was sentenced to six months in the Sonoma County jail and four years' probation Wednesday afternoon.

Steven Harry Heath, 60, of Santa Rosa, faced three years in prison for felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. He pleaded no contest to both charges.

Heath struck George Michael Black, 64, of Pacifica, from behind with his 2011 Mercedes Benz S550 on Feb. 27. Both the Mercedes Benz and Black were heading east in the 4600 block of Montgomery Road when the incident happened around 1:10 p.m.

Heath contacted the law firm of Andrian and Gallenson about the accident on March 1. Attorney Stephen Gallenson gave police Heath's address and Heath was arrested. He posted bail and was released from jail the next day.

At the sentencing, Black's ex-wife Susan Kitchell said she and Black's 16-year-old son are still grieving "24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

She said Black was not a sports fan, but he learned all about the game of baseball when their son began playing it.

In a letter to the court, the teen said his father's death has left a hole in his heart, and he is physically and mentally exhausted from lack of sleep.

In a letter to Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite, Black's brother David said he doesn't believe in revenge, but wants an appropriate sentence for the man who left his brother to die on the side of the road and waited two days to turn himself in.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner said Heath made "a full-throttle escape to his home" after hitting Black. Waner said Heath's continuing contentions he did not know he hit Black are "as offensive as they are confounding."

Witnesses said there was a loud "boom" and a cloud of dust as Heath swerved away from the scene in his in the Mercedes, Waner said.

"There's nothing to suggest he could not have known he hit someone," Waner said.

Waner said he wasn't seeking a prison sentence, but he asked the judge to sentence Heath to no less than the 12 months in county jail and probation as recommended by the county probation department.

Gallenson asked Thistlethwaite to sentence Heath to 90 days in jail and allow him to serve it in home confinement.

Heath was driving on the narrow road without a shoulder with the radio on his car, Gallenson said. His attention was to his left where an oncoming driver crossed over the centerline of the road as the driver passed a bicyclist.

"It's clear his character was tested that day and he failed," Gallenson said.

Thistlethwaite said she believes Heath did not see Black and the collision was an accident, but she noted he waited two days to take responsibility for the collision.

"There has to be some punishment and some actual jail time," she said.

Heath, who has worked in real estate for 25 years, apologized to Kitchell. He called the incident "a horrid car accident" that also has shattered his life, and he said he is "consumed with grief."

"I hope and pray you will find some peace," Heath said.

Heath is being treated with radiation for an illness, but Gallenson said he is financially able to make substantial restitution to Kitchell and her son.


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