Memorial for Daveionne Kelly on the I-15, near the 395 exit
  • Memorial for Daveionne Kelly on the I-15, near the 395 exit
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Fifty-three-year-old Katherine Ann Heinzel, a former cop who was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, is due in San Diego Superior Court again on Monday, November 24.

Heinzel is said to have been a nine-year veteran with the Newport Beach police force, trained as an accident investigator. She he was involved in a fatal freeway collision in 2011. She did not testify at her first trial in late 2012, at the conclusion of which she was found guilty of three felonies: causing the death of one man and serious injury to two others.

In January 2013 she was sentenced to nine years prison, but in July of this year, Heinzel’s conviction was reversed for “instructional error”; the higher court found fault with a jury instruction regarding “gross vehicular manslaughter.”

In October of this year, Heinzel paid an $8000 fee to have a $100,000-bond posted. She is at liberty while awaiting her new trial, set for March 16.

Papers in her court file indicate that a previous defense attorney attempted to suppress evidence about blood drawn from Heinzel two hours after the collision. Results showed a .09 blood alcohol content; investigators later estimated her level to be .14 at the time of the fatal collision (.06 higher than the law allows), according to prosecutor Tracy Prior.

Among the detailed accusations in papers filed on November 7, the prosecutor claims that at 1:50 a.m. on November 19, 2011, Heinzel was driving a white Nissan Altima northbound on I-15 when she ran into the back of a blue 1992 Toyota. The three men in the Toyota all wore seatbelts, had not consumed alcohol, and were heading home to Perris, California, after visiting friends in Coronado. Heinzel later told a CHP officer that she was headed for her home in Winchester, about 30 miles away.

Investigators estimated Heinzel’s car was traveling between 91 to 101 mph and was straddling two lanes when it rammed the Toyota, reportedly going 58–68 mph. Both vehicles went through a guardrail and over a drop-off at the side of freeway, near the Old Highway 395 exit.

One of the passengers in the Toyota, Brian Morast, then 20, survived to tell jurors that their car repeatedly flipped front bumper to end bumper; after as many as ten revolutions, their car finally came to rest on its side. Morast suffered traumatic brain injury, two collapsed lungs, five broken ribs, and a spleen injury.

The other passenger in the Toyota, Kris Walker, then 19, survived a three-inch-deep gash in his head and was able to struggle back up the embankment. While he climbed, he came across Heinzel’s vehicle and saw the woman stuck between her seat and the steering wheel.

“Mr. Walker pulled defendant out of her burning car,” the prosecutor stated in court papers. “He saved her life, and the defendant’s car then went up in flames.”

The prosecutor claimed that Heinzel then “took off running” but other witnesses at the scene kept her at the side of the road until police arrived. One witness said that Heinzel kept saying she “had to go” or that she had to go “pick up her mother.”

When CHP officer Michael Zappia arrived, he reportedly found Heinzel near a guardrail, between some vehicles, and he noticed that she smelled of alcohol.

“She could not recall any details regarding the collision, where she was coming from, where she was going to, how she got to the scene, or who was travelling with her, if anyone. However, defendant was able to provide identifying information such as her friend’s name and recite her driver’s license number.”

Heinzel complained of pain and was transported to hospital after about five to seven minutes.

The driver of the Toyota, Daveionne Kelly, 20, was able to crawl out of his car, but died at the scene.

Heinzel is expected to be present for a “status conference” before judge Carlos Armour in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse on Monday morning, November 24.

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MichaelValentine Nov. 22, 2014 @ 2:03 p.m.

This former policewoman's job of accident investigations made her well aware of the results of driving while intoxicated.

Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated for her was premeditated murder.


Eva Knott Nov. 22, 2014 @ 3:39 p.m.

These other photos by Bob Weatherston show the long, steep drop off at the side of Interstate 15, near the Old Highway 395 exit, where the cars went over. Really it is amazing that anybody survived the catastrophe.


Visduh Nov. 23, 2014 @ 11:26 a.m.

This is another of those tiny technicalities that the courts use at times to reverse the results of trials. And it is reminiscent of the reversal of the first Tuite trial, and the subsequent acquittal. As I say, a tiny technicality.

But there's another aspect to it, and that's the lax treatment of cops and former cops in the criminal justice system. Could that be in play here? It's not clear whether she was a cop when this crash occurred, or whether she had been out of law enforcement for some time. Either way, she should be, if anything, held to a higher standard. And since there seems little doubt as to the facts of the case, as in the speeding and the results of the crash, it should be a slam dunk for the DA to get a conviction again. But with this DA we have now, you can never be sure.


Visduh Nov. 24, 2014 @ 7:56 a.m.

I hope you're wrong, but fear you're right.


Eva Knott Nov. 24, 2014 @ 2:04 p.m.

According to prosecutor Tracy Prior, the accused woman was not a police officer at the time of the fatal collision. At her court hearing this morning, November 24, 2014, defendant Katherine Ann Heinzel was allowed to push back her trial date until May of 2015.
Honorable judge K. Michael Kirkman confirmed that defendant is out on bond and is wearing a SCRAM device. (Reportedly a tamper-resistant device that is worn around the ankle, intended to test the wearer's sweat at least once an hour for alcohol.)
The accused woman is next due in court on February 23, 2015, to confirm the trial date.


Eva Knott April 20, 2015 @ 7:44 a.m.

Trial has been delayed again for Katherine Ann Heinzel, 54, after a hearing on Friday, April 17, 2015. Heinzel appears to have changed attorneys again, and is now represented by William Nimmo. Trial for Heinzel had been set to start in two weeks, but is now delayed until October. The defendant remains at liberty on bond while awaiting trial.


Eva Knott Sept. 22, 2015 @ 8:18 a.m.

Trial for the former cop has been delayed again. The new date is now October 14, 2015, nearly four years after the fatal freeway collision.


Eva Knott Oct. 15, 2015 @ 5:22 a.m.

At the hearing on October 14, 2015, the trial for the Katherine Ann Heinzel was delayed again, another five months until March 2, 2016. The fatal collision occurred in November 2011, in October of 2012 she was convicted at her first trial, and in July 2014 that conviction was overturned. She posted bond and has been at liberty since October 2014. At this writing, the defense attorney for Heinzel still appears to be William Nimmo.


Eva Knott Jan. 11, 2016 @ 9:22 a.m.

Another trial delay for Katherine Ann Heinzel was granted last Friday, on January 8 2016. Her current trial date is now set for May 2 2016. The fatal crash happened more than four years ago, on November 19, 2011. Heinzel has been out on bond, at liberty, since October of 2014. It appears that the former Orange County police officer is still represented by attorney William Nimmo.


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