City worker pleads not guilty in woman's park death

A city gardener pleaded not guilty to running over and killing a woman at Holly Park in San Francisco?s Bernal Heights neighborhood.
October 23, 2013 9:19:36 PM PDT
The city gardener accused of running over a woman at a San Francisco park was charged Wednesday with felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run. Christy Svanemyr was sun bathing on a grassy knoll when she was run over by a city truck.

About 25 friends and family members entered the courtroom to show their support for Thomas Burnoski. The 58-year-old city gardener pleaded not guilty to running over and killing a woman at Holly Park in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood.

"He is a man of integrity. I just feel in my heart that it was an accident. I spoke to him Sunday at church and I told him I was going to be here for him," friend Sharon Haynes said.

Inside the courtroom his lawyer said Burnoski was driving on the asphalt when an unleashed dog darted in front of him. Burnoski then tried to avoid hitting the dog by swerving to the right and driving down the grassy hill.

"The dog scampered out from underneath the car and he thought it was ok but then he started to think that maybe he hit something else because he had seen a baby," Tony Tamburello said.

Tamburello says at the time, his client didn't know he had run over Svanemyr. She later died.

"The right thing to do would have been for him to come to a stop, not to go over the lawn and certainly not to continue to drive and after you feel a bump and run over something, stop to see what's going on," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.

Burnoski's attorney did not say why his client did not stop. Instead he drove off. He later told a supervisor he thought he ran over something.

Neighbors continue to put flowers in the area where Svanemyr was killed. Some want to put a bench here.

"You know because as nice as this is, this is only temporary and we want to remember her always," neighbor Chris Montgomery said.

Svanemyr's husband was not in the courtroom, saying it was still too painful.


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