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CHP: Driver in fatal Highway 12 crash suspected under the influence of pot

  • Two Santa Rosa women were killed in a two-vehicle wreck on eastbound Highway 12 in Santa Rosa on Saturday, March 15, 2014. (KEVIN MCCALLUM/ PD)

The driver involved in a weekend crash that killed two Santa Rosa women may have been under the influence of marijuana and using his cellphone at the time, the CHP said Monday.

Sharon Hufford, 74, and her daughter-in-law, Sue Hufford, 53, died on impact when a pickup smashed into the back of their Toyota Camry, which was stopped for a red light on Highway 12 at Farmers Lane on Saturday night.

Sue Hufford's husband, Jay Hufford, 54, was driving and suffered a laceration to his head. His father, Donald Hufford, 74, was injured and remained in serious condition Monday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

The four were on their way to dinner at the time to celebrate the birthday of Sue Hufford, a music teacher in the Mark West Union School District.

Nicholas Lee Tognozzi, 30, of Rohnert Park was driving the pickup that slammed into their car. He was not seriously injured. A cellphone number listed on his now-defunct Facebook page went to voicemail Sunday but had been changed or deactivated by Monday.

But Tognozzi's father, Gary Tognozzi, spoke out Monday, saying, "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the Huffords."

"It's difficult for me to describe the sadness our entire family has been experiencing since we heard about the accident," he said.

His son, who spent some of his adolescence in Sebastopol and attended Analy High School, was "terribly distraught," he said.

Gary Tognozzi, as well as his son's lawyer, Matt Freeman, declined to comment on the allegations that his son was impaired by drugs and distracted by cellphone use at the time of the crash.

Tognozzi told police officers he had looked down at his phone to read a text message at the time of the collision, and his cellphone records confirm that, CHP Officer Kerri Post said.

The CHP on Monday was seeking a search warrant for the phone in order to review more detailed text and call history.

An officer specializing in drug recognition evaluated Tognozzi for impairment and gave the opinion that Tognozzi was under the influence of marijuana, Post added.

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