By Robert Salonga
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 12/21/2009 12:15:42 PM PST
Updated: 12/21/2009 03:17:27 PM PST
WALNUT CREEK “” An El Sobrante man suspected in the November 2008 death of a Martinez cyclist pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter, with nearly 50 of the victim”s relatives and friends on hand to witness the brief proceeding.
The arraignment capped a tireless effort by Mark Pendleton”s family and cycling colleagues to help authorities find leads in the case, which went eight months without an identified suspect before the California Highway Patrol arrested Harold Brown, 53, on June 2.
Brown, dressed in a suit but held in handcuffs with a bailiff in tow, was assigned $85,000 bail. He was expected to post it, as he did when he was arrested six months ago. He is due back in court Thursday morning.
Denise Pendleton, the widow of the 49-year-old electrician and father of two, said she was heartened by the progress in the case, which had seemed bleak for a while. “I”m very grateful “… There have to be some consequences to what happened.”
Mark Pendleton was an avid cycler and member of the Contra Costa Cycling Club who also competed on the Wells Fargo racing team. He was on a routine ride on McEwen Road a half-mile north of Highway 4 the evening of Nov. 24, 2008 when a large sport-utility vehicle or truck crossed into his lane and struck him, leaving behind shards of a broken headlight.
Afterward, Denise Pendleton, along with the cycling club, helped the California
Highway Patrol passing out fliers and holding vigils to keep Mark Pendleton fresh in people”s minds. A $25,000 reward for information, a Web site, and a white-painted “ghost bike” placed at the crash site followed.
CHP Officer Tom Maguire said tireless work by investigators combined with the community effort brought what seemed destined to remain a mystery into a courtroom Monday.
“We went from no leads to an in-custody arrest,” Maguire said. “We want to thank all the people who came forward.”
Denise Pendleton said besides finding justice in her husband”s death, she hopes the high profile of the case and the ensuing court proceedings remind motorists not to flee the scene of a crash, especially when someone”s been hurt.
“What happened was probably an accident,” she said. “But (Brown) acted cowardly, and these terrible things became a terrible crime.”