A man from Santa Rosa accused of causing the 2022 accident that killed a motorcyclist on Fountaingrove Parkway should not be charged with murder, argues his lawyer, because it was an accident and did not involve premeditation.
This argument, presented on behalf of 38-year-old Charles Bernhardy, is included in a defense motion dated September 21 requesting the dismissal of the charges.
This is in response to a preliminary hearing on June 16 in the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa, where a judge determined that Bernhardy should be tried for the collision on September 6, 2022, which killed 23-year-old Vance Stammer, a resident of Santa Rosa.
His lawyer, Michael Teply, from the Sonoma County Public Defender's Office, wrote that Bernhardy was upset on the night of the accident because he believed his wife had cheated on him and went for a ride to calm down.
That's when the collision happened on Fountaingrove Parkway.
"Mr. Bernhardy did not intend to commit murder on the night of the accident," Teply wrote. "There was no testimony to support the idea that Mr. Bernhardy's actions were deliberate or premeditated."
A judge is scheduled to hear arguments about the defense motion on October 19.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Staebell said that his office would respond to the defense motion at that time.
Bernhardy is charged with murder, vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, and hit-and-run in connection with Stammer, whose loved ones recently gathered to commemorate the anniversary of his death.
Authorities said that Stammer was rear-ended by a Chevrolet Silverado believed to be driven by Bernhardy.
Stammer suffered serious injuries and was taken off life support two weeks after the accident, while hundreds of friends and family members mourned outside Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
According to testimony in court on June 16, Bernhardy had been drinking at a neighbor's apartment before going to a store for more alcohol hours before the accident.
After parting ways with the neighbor, Bernhardy argued with his wife, according to court documents, which also describe the woman as his girlfriend.
Later on, according to the Santa Rosa Police, Bernhardy was heading west on Fountaingrove when he struck Stammer's motorcycle just east of Sedgemoore Drive.
The motorcycle became trapped under Bernhardy's truck. Nonetheless, Bernhardy continued driving and hit a Honda Accord on Sedgemoore, according to police.
During the preliminary hearing, Santa Rosa Police Officer John Fisher testified that Bernhardy may have been driving at about 79 mph and that the impact caused Stammer's helmet to come off.
Stammer's TM Racing 450 Fi motorcycle came loose from under the truck at a center divide near Nagasawa Park, almost 2 miles from Sedgemoore.
The police found the abandoned truck on Mendocino Avenue. They found Bernhardy at his home the next day and arrested him.
Fisher testified that Bernhardy claimed to have slept in a bush after his truck stopped working and then walked home.
His lawyer argues that Bernhardy was unaware that he had hit someone and fled the accident scene.
"No testimony was presented at the preliminary hearing to demonstrate that Mr. Bernhardy was aware of the accident," Teply wrote. "Mr. Bernhardy told Officer Fisher that while he was driving, he felt a strong impact, and then his truck broke down."
Originally posted at Liga Legal®