Jan 11, 2010
By Michael Moore
The driver of a vehicle that dealt fatal injuries to Rory Tomasello, 22, as he was riding his bicycle through a crosswalk has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
Morgan Hill resident Sandra Arlia, 66, turned herself in to police Dec. 28 after a $7,000 warrant was issued for her arrest. She was booked on suspicion of manslaughter at the San Jose Police Department and released, according to Morgan Hill Sgt. Jerry Neumayer.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office charged Arlia with a misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, according to spokeswoman Amy Cornell. If convicted, Arlia faces a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.
On Oct. 23, 2009, Arlia was driving a 2004 Cadillac Escalade west on West Edmundson Avenue, when the vehicle struck Tomasello in the crosswalk, just west of the intersection of Monterey Road. Police responded to the 5 p.m. accident and found Tomasello lying in the middle of the outside westbound lane. Arlia was still present at the scene.
According to police, the bicyclist was conscious at the scene, but he appeared disoriented and had redness to the back of his neck and stomach. He complained of an injury to his leg, and was transported by ambulance to Saint Louise Regional Hospital. On the way there, he was rerouted to San Jose Regional Hospital. Tomasello died Nov. 2 as a result of injuries suffered in the accident. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, Neumayer said.
Witnesses who saw the accident said while Tomasello was traversing the crosswalk on his bicycle, traveling north, a motorist stopped in the inside westbound lane to allow him to cross. Tomasello made it across the two eastbound lanes, and continued through the crosswalk and his bicycle hit the front driver’s side fender of the Cadillac, which was traveling through the crosswalk at the same time, Neumayer said.
The impact caused Tomasello to fall off his bicycle and land in the middle of the outside westbound lane.
No one was ticketed or arrested at the scene of the accident, which remains under investigation, Neumayer said.
The crosswalk in which the accident occurred, located just east of the Centennial Recreation Center, connects a paved pedestrian and bike path that parallels West Little Llagas Creek across West Edmundson Avenue.
Tomasello suffered a fractured skull and brain swelling in the accident, according to his mother Kathee Tomasello. As soon as he was placed in the ambulance at the scene of the accident, he passed out and did not regain consciousness. He was declared brain dead Nov. 2.
Tomasello’s mother and a close friend described him as an aspiring playwright with a creative mind. He was a graduate of Live Oak High School, and a former classmate said he began taking philosophy classes at De Anza College in Cupertino shortly before the accident.
On his MySpace page, Tomasello described himself as “creative but not annoyingly eccentric.” His blogs included diatribes on gay marriage and religion, New World Order conspiracy theories and the top 10 reasons why the federal drug war should end. For heroes, he listed his father, professional musician Tom Tomasello, first, followed by beat poets including Allen Ginsberg, philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and comedians such as Bill Hicks and David Cross.
The accident led city staff to begin a reassessment of the safety of all its mid-block crosswalks. The crosswalk in which Tomasello was killed is not intended to be ridden across on a bicycle, and in fact city ordinance demands cyclists dismount to cross the street. Where the bike path meets West Edmundson Avenue on the south side of the road is a narrow opening in a chain link fence with about a 3-foot post in the middle of it, a design intended to encourage cyclists to dismount.
Arlia will be arraigned in the South County Courthouse Jan. 19.
The accident occurred just more than a year after the last cyclist was killed on Morgan Hill roads. On Oct. 8, 2008, Bruce Finch of Gilroy was killed when he was cycling on Uvas Road when he struck a 1997 Honda Civic at the intersection of Little Uvas Road. The motorist who was driving the Honda, Rita Campos of Morgan Hill, faces the same misdemeanor charge that Arlia faces. Campos’ case is scheduled for a jury trial to begin Jan. 25.