Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Man gets 15-to-life for drunk driving death

SANTA ROSA – A Sonoma County man whose history of drunk driving culminated in his hitting and killing a former Clearlake resident was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison last Thursday.

Joseph Elton Lynchard, 74, was driving drunk in an incident two years ago when he hit and killed bicyclist Kathryn Lynn Black, 43, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.

Lynchard pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Antolini's courtroom in January. On Thursday Antolini handed down the 15 years to life sentence last week.

Passalacqua, who called Black's death a “senseless tragedy,” said Lynchard had numerous previous DUI convictions by the time of the incident, which gave rise to the second-degree murder charge.

“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 in a January statement.

Black was riding her bicycle eastbound on Mark West Springs Road on the afternoon of March 28, 2005, when she pulled her bike onto the dirt shoulder of the road and appeared to be standing over her bike resting, according to a statement from Passalacqua's office.

Lynchard was driving his Ford F150 pickup home after drinking at his brother’s bar, Eddie’s, according to Passalacqua's statement. He drove onto the dirt shoulder, up and over a raised asphalt curb and struck Black from behind.

Black died at the scene, according to the original California Highway Patrol report. CHP officers reported at the time that Black's family came upon the accident shortly afterward, to find that she had been killed.

Lynchard’s blood alcohol level was determined to be 0.24 percent, three times the level permitted by California law, according to Passalacqua's office.

The criminal investigation, according to Passalacqua, determined that Lynchard had seven prior arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, and had attended the state-mandated drunk driving course four times previously.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office statement said it charged Lynchard with second-degree murder because this prior history demonstrated that Lynchard was aware of the risk, and chose to ignore it when he drove after consuming alcohol.

Deputy District Attorney William Brockley was the prosecutor assigned to the case and was assisted by District Attorney Investigators Kris Allen and Roslyn Eliaser, and Victim Advocate Miriam Gaon. California Highway Patrol Officers Steve Wyatt and Robert Mota were the lead detectives on this successful investigation.

“I hope this sentence gives the Black family some closure to aid them in the healing process,” Passalacqua said.

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


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