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Ryan Karr guilty of manslaughter

  • Ryan Karr, left, pictured here with CHP officer Heather Bushey in 2007, will learn if he is guilty of vehicular manslaughter. (Press Democrat file photo)

Sonoma County jurors convicted a 28-year-old Windsor man Monday of felony vehicular manslaughter in a fiery Highway 101 crash that killed five family members.

On the third day of deliberations, jurors found Ryan Karr guilty of five counts of felony vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence while intoxicated, rejecting alternate misdemeanor charges that could have allowed him to avoid state prison.

Although Karr hadn’t been drinking and it was unclear if he was impaired, jurors said they were swayed in part by toxicology reports that showed he had trace amounts of marijuana in his system.

“It was a hard decision but I think it was the right one,” said juror Richena Johnson of Santa Rosa.

Karr had been free but was remanded into custody with the verdict. His eyes welled with tears as bailiffs put him in handcuffs over objections from his lawyer, Andy Martinez, and prepared to escort him to jail.

Judge Rene Chouteau said jail was right given the felony convictions. Karr will be sentenced Feb. 18., when he faces a maximum of six years and eight months in prison.

“Once again it’s a reminder of the lethal combination of using drugs and driving in a reckless manner,” District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said. “It’s sad this individual deliberately used drugs and chose to drive and in the process destroyed an entire family.”

Karr pleaded no contest late last month to a misdemeanor charge of “having recently used cocaine” prior to the crash, his attorney said, but that charge and pleading was not revealed to the jury prior to its verdict.

Prosecutors alleged Karr was driving too fast in rush hour traffic Jan. 19, 2007 when he rear-ended a stopped Honda Civic, which burst into flames, killing Windsor residents Maria Lopez Camacho, 54; Edith Carlos Medina, 23, her son, Fernando Carlos, 7; Almadelia Mendera-Basurto, 16; and Carmina Solorio, 23, of Mexico.

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