Monday, 15 July 2024

Man enters plea in bicyclist's death


Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua announced Wednesday that 74-year-old Joseph Elton Lynchard pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of Kathryn Lynn Black.

Lynchard entered his guilty plea before Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Lawrence G. Antolini, just days before a trial was set to begin.

When Lynchard is sentenced on April 2 he will face 15 years to life in state prison, according to Passalacqua's statement.

"This was a senseless and tragic loss that was completely avoidable,” said Passalacqua.

Black, 43, died after being struck by Lynchard's pickup as she rode her bicycle along Mark West Springs Road near Quietwater Road, outside of Santa Rosa, on March 28, 2005.

The investigation into the incident found that Black, who was riding eastbound on Mark West Springs Road at about 1 p.m., had stopped on the road's dirt shoulder, where witnesses reported she was standing over her mountain bike, resting.

Lynchard, driving an F150 Ford pickup, drove off the road and onto the shoulder, went over a raised curb and struck Black from behind.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Black suffered massive head wounds and a broken leg. Rincon Valley paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.

Black's husband and other family members arrived not long after the accident to find Black had died, reported CHP Officer Christine Jacobs of the Santa Rosa CHP Office.

CHP evaluated Lynchard at the accident scene, at which time he told them that he was driving home from Eddie's Bar – reportedly owned by his brother – where he had consumed three glasses of red wine. Officers found he had a blood alcohol level of 0.24, three times the state's legal limit, and arrested him at the scene.

Passalacqua's office said a criminal investigation led by CHP Officers Steve Wyatt and Robert Mota revealed Lynchard had six prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Passalacqua said a second-degree murder charge was “appropriate” in this case because of Lynchard's past history, which included having attended mandatory drunk driver programs on numerous occasions.

“The law permits such a charge when people like Mr. Lynchard are subjectively aware of the risk, and choose to ignore that very risk when they drive under the influence and take another’s life,” Passalacqua said.

Deputy District Attorney William Brockley was the prosecutor assigned to the case. Brockley was assisted by District Attorney Investigators Kris Allen and Roslyn Eliaser and Victim Advocate Miriam Gaon. Attorney Chris Andrian defended Lynchard.

The stretch of road where Black died saw another bicyclist lose his life the previous year, when Sonoma County resident Daniel O'Reilley was hit and killed by Cobb resident William Albertson on April 19, 2004.

Like Lynchard, Albertson was found to have been under the influence of alcohol; Passalacqua's office reported his blood alcohol level was 0.22, nearly as high as Lynchard's.

Albertson eventually pleaded guilty to a string of charges that included vehicular manslaughter and admitting an enhancement that he fled the scene without rendering aid, felony counts of driving a vehicle while having a blood/alcohol level of at least .08 percent and felony hit and run after causing injury to another.

He also admitted that he was previously convicted of a serious felony offense and suffered a prior strike conviction.

Albertson, who was ineligible for probation, eventually was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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