SAN DIEGO — An 18-year-old who allegedly was on high drugs when he got into a fatal head-on freeway crash in Rancho Penasquitos must stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Timothy Theodore Barnette — held on $100,000 bail — faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of charges stemming from the May 16 crash that killed 22-year-old Nick Hart, who was on his way to a funeral when he was killed.
“I just figured he (the driver) was making a phone call,” the witness said.
Moments later, the same Land Rover sped past the couple, changing lanes and driving erratically, prompting Almryde to call 911.
“I felt he was going to cause an accident,” the witness testified.
Another witness, Rex Dolendo, said he was stopped at a red light on the same road — which becomes state Route 56 near the Interstate 15 interchange — when the Land Rover’s driver cut him off and narrowly missed hitting his car.
Dolendo — who also called 911 — described the actions of the Land Rover’s driver as an “accident waiting to happen.”
Dolendo said he exited the freeway at Black Mountain Road, as did the other driver, but the Land Rover got back on the freeway.
Laura Atwell testified that she was cut off and forced off the road by the Land Rover as she got on westbound state Route 56 at Camino Del Sur.
David Brenner said he tried to pass the Land Rover and got a good look at the driver, who he identified as Barnette. The witness said Barnette smiled at him, swerved to the left, crossed a center median and crashed on the other side of the freeway.
Brenner said he saw smoke, dirt and an explosion, but didn’t see Barnette hit another car.
“It was quite obvious he was a reckless driver,” Brenner said.
Tracy Fitzpatrick testified that she was a passenger in a car traveling westbound on the freeway near Rancho Penasquitos Boulevard when she noticed an SUV coming toward them.
The oncoming car did a “beeline” for the car ahead of hers and hit the victim’s Scion, knocking both cars off the road, Fitzpatrick testified.
Hart, a 2009 graduate of Poway High School, was trapped in his car and was pronounced dead at the scene of blunt force trauma injuries.
California Highway Patrol Officer Brad Clinkscales testified that after the crash, at a hospital, Barnette told him that he had left Abraxas High School in Poway to get something to eat. He said Barnette said that he had taken two Xanax pills and smoked marijuana two days before the accident, and had inhaled computer keyboard cleaner two months earlier.
Officers found two cans of the cleaner in the defendant’s car and one was empty, Clinkscales testified.
Authorities found marijuana, Xanax and inhalants in Barnette’s blood, according to a court stipulation.
“What a tragedy,” Judge John Einhorn said as he ordered Barnette to stand trial Nov. 14.