Kengla awaits hearing – again
Almost everyone in the courtroom was ready for the preliminary hearing to start in the case of Chris Pipkin Kengla, a South Lake Tahoe woman charged with felony DUI, but a continuance was granted Thursday.
Kengla, 48, was arrested after her pickup truck slid out of control on U.S. Highway 50 on Feb. 17, into oncoming traffic, and collided with a car. The accident injured four South Lake Tahoe teen-agers, Joshua Zion, 16, Seth McGrath, 17, Christina Peterson, 16, and Amber Kraw, 15. Zion suffered facial and chest injuries, while McGrath was treated for a lacerated liver and colon, and later had to have his gall bladder removed because of damage caused by the impact. Tests conducted later in the week showed that Kraw, who was believed to have only suffered slight cuts and bruises, had actually broken her back.
Kengla was taken into custody on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and causing great bodily injury. Her alcohol level at the time of the accident was .09, according to court records. The legal limit in California is .08.
In April, the judge issued a continuance to the preliminary hearing, scheduling it for May 21. On Thursday, Judge Jerald Lasarow was ready to proceed with the hearing. However, both the defense attorney and the district attorney were not. After a request for a continuance by Kengla’s attorney was denied by Lasarow, District Attorney Michael Atwell decided to request one of his own.
While Kengla’s attorney was still awaiting photographs vital to the case, Atwell was absent a key witness to the accident – investigating officer Dan Moskueira. Filling in for Moskueira, who is out of town on business, was Sgt. Tom Conner. Conner was ready to testify, but he had no information regarding the blood sample taken from Kengla on the night of the accident.
“Dan is out of town training with the SWAT team,” Conner said. “Through Proposition 115, I am allowed to testify with what he told me. It was suddenly realized that he never told me about the blood samples.”
Vital to proving their case that Kengla was “legally intoxicated” while driving the vehicle, Atwell and officers spent several minutes in search of the blood technician who analyzed the sample. When the search ended unsuccessfully – it was discovered that the technician works graveyards – Atwell again requested a continuance. Although, he did state he was pretty confident he had enough information already to go ahead with the case.
Much to the disappointment of several of the victim’s friends and family members in the audience, Judge Lasarow granted the continuance, reluctantly, knowing the photographs and the information surrounding the blood samples could be pivotal in the case.
“I tell you, there will not be another continuance. You get those photos, because the bottom line is we have to get rolling with this case,” Lasarow said. “I can’t look into a crystal ball and see what will happen. Someone could be out ill or in the hospital, but we are going to do this June 4. There will be no more continuances.”
The preliminary hearing has been set for June 4 at 1:30 p.m. Lasarow gave the hearing an exact time so those interested in the case do not have to wait all day for their case to come up.
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