UPDATE May 22 – CHP investigators announce the arrest of Yarenit Malihan.
Although it may not have been quickly enough to please family members and advocates of stiffer penalties for drunk driving offenders, the California Highway Patrol and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office announced Friday that they are moving to arrest a Pleasanton woman behind the wheel during a fatal drunk driving collision on I680 last year.
Capt. Christopher Sherry said a joint warrant had been obtained for Yarenit Malihan – wife of an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy and the CHP’s sole suspect in the Sept. 9, 2016 collision which killed a 3-year-old child and severely injured his mother on northbound I680 south of Bollinger Canyon Road.
Investigators allege Malihan was impaired when her 2008 Toyota Sequoia veered to the right hand shoulder of the freeway and struck a stalled Toyota Camry – severely damaging the Camry and killing Elijah Dunn, 3.
Sherry said that after “extensive review” of the case – a period during which the Dunn family questioned the time the investigation seemed to be taking as well as recurring instances of bizarre behavior by Malihan while she remained free – the decision was made to charge her with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony driving under the influence.
“The California Highway Patrol is committed to ensuring that drunk and drug impaired drivers are removed from our highways. We are dedicated to preventing DUI related tragedies. We will continue to support the Dunn family as this case proceeds through the judicial system,” Sherry wrote Friday.
Bail for Malihan has been set at $3 million.
But the Dunn family and others concerned by prosecutorial windows they said are often left open for drunk driving offenders point out that the I680 crash was Malihan’s second DUI inside of three months, and that despite her previous arrest on June 7, 2016 – for suspicion of drunk driving and child endangerment – she was still legally permitted to be behind the wheel when she rammed the Camry carrying Elijah Dunn, his mother, 1-year-old sister and his 11-year-old brother. The children were taken to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland where Elijah died of his injuries.
Misdemeanor DUI and child endangerment charges were brought against Malihan a month after her arrest in June and her driver’s license was due to be suspended in July but an order granting her a stay of the license suspension was granted until her hearing on the charges – in October.
The Dunn family, and others hit hard by local DUI cases, have argued for change.
“We need this to be stopped. We need a bill to be passed to say, ‘We can no longer have anybody under the influence of drugs, under the influence of alcohol, that are driving. Take your license away. You have no right to drive, period,'” Elijah’s grandfather Chuck Manoiki told an NBC reporter.
The Dunn-Malihan case reminded long-time readers of another fatal collision involving alleged impaired driving, one in which a Tracy man in a speeding car caused a nine-car pileup that killed a Walnut Creek man virtually in front of Acalanes High School in March, 2007.
Four years after his speeding BMW slammed into a Mazda Miata driven by Dale Zenor of Walnut Creek while Zenor waiting at a stoplight, David Caspillo, 42, of Tracy, was given a jail sentence of 270 days and ordered to spend 60 days in County Jail, with the remainder served under electronic home confinement for his role in causing the death of Dale Zenor of Walnut Creek.
Caspillo pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crash, his attorney arguing he was experiencing a prolonged manic episode and was totally unaware of his surroundings when he struck Zenor’s car at speeds estimated at 70mph.
Family members were sharply critical of a system they said allowed Caspillo to “carry on with his life as if nothing had happened” and even allowed him to continue to drive while the wreckage from the accident – and Zenor’s memory – were slowly swept away.
At Caspillo’s sentencing, Judge Brian Haynes cited the fact that Capillo’s bipolarism was undiagnosed at the time when he handed down the sentence. To that end, he gave a stern order to the defendant to closely monitor his condition and take all his prescribed medication.