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Will The Driver That Killed My Husband Ever Be Held Accountable?

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Submitted by Deborah Reichle, a client of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys personal injury attorneys:

The avalanche of pain, heartache, and financial devastation created by Sara Sherbin’s negligence started on Thanksgiving morning 2008 and has continued through every day of my family’s lives since then. My husband, David Reichle, was pronounced brain dead and taken off of life support five days after the jeep Sara was driving hit him as a pedestrian. Although I expected unbiased justice from the City of Torrance, that is far from what I am currently experiencing.

Sara drove down a very wide, quiet residential street in Torrance claiming the sun was in her eyes and her windshield was fogged up. But rather than stopping to correct her obstructed vision, Sara chose to continue driving blindly on while her jeep drifted to the right. She plowed through David’s body after he exited our family van and turned to talk with a friend standing on the sidewalk. David did not walk in front of Sara’s jeep. Her jeep drove straight at him and our parked van, while an eye witness watched in horror when he realized she wasn’t stopping.

David’s body and head took the full impact of her jeep, while she crushed him between her jeep and the door of our van, bending the door completely back on its hinges and throwing David over 20 feet. When he hit the pavement, the momentum caused him to continue rolling until he landed in the gutter where he lay unconscious and bleeding profusely from his head.

Even while this horrific pedestrian accident unfolded, Sara still claims to have seen nothing. Rather than stopping when the impact occurred, she abruptly over-corrected the direction her jeep was headed and shot diagonally across the street before she finally came to a stop two houses away. If there had been any other cars headed westbound on 232nd Street at that time, she would have hit them as she crossed their lane. These are not the actions of someone who is in control of their car and intently trying to see out of their windshield.

I do not believe Sara is being totally truthful about what she was doing in her jeep that morning. I relied on the integrity of the Torrance Police to do a thorough investigation and write an accurate report of the car accident. In my opinion that report should have, at a minimum, included further questioning of her original statement; fully documenting everything the witnesses said; and checking her cell phone records for calls or texting at the time of the personal injury accident. I was told by Officer Tim Stark that the investigation would take four months, and at its completion, the case would be referred to the District Attorney’s office, and Sara would be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony for vehicular manslaughter.

After waiting over four months for the report, which was finally issued on March 31, 2009, I was dealt a blow, almost as devastating as my daughters’ and I witnessing the accident. Officer Stark’s report was missing the statement of a key witness and the facts of what happened that morning were inaccurately documented and, in my opinion, written to diminish Sara’s liability. There was even a reference that David could have been cited for exiting his van, although he was fully out of the van and in plain view as stated by witnesses. This section of 232nd street is over 39 feet wide. Sara had plenty of street available to her and could have easily avoided hitting David if she had been driving attentively and was in control of her jeep.

Rather than citing Sara for hitting a pedestrian, she was given a traffic citation for an “unsafe turning movement” in a roadway and the case was kept within the city’s jurisdiction by being referred to the Torrance City Prosecutor’s office instead of the District Attorney.

Today is May 25, 2009, and, to my knowledge, there still has been no charge filed against Sara, other than the minor traffic citation. From my conversations with David Caceras of the Torrance City Prosecutor’s office, no other charges are pending. Mr. Caceras told me his office does no further investigation beyond Officer Stark’s report, and since Officer Stark has been writing these types of reports for over 18 years, there should be no need to question it. When I advised him that a key witness’s statement was missing, and that specific data was inaccurate, he said he would have to wait for an amended police report containing that statement and reluctantly said he would have the City Attorney review the case.

Sara Sherbin is a resident of Torrance, and it is my belief that she is being given unwarranted, preferential treatment by the City of Torrance. I found it necessary to consult a personal injury attorney who, through discovery, located a prior DUI charge for Sara. She was allowed to plead that DUI down to only a wreckless driving charge and the DUI was not reported to the DMV.

Fast forward to November 2008. Sara kills David and, once again, is not being held fully accountable for her actions behind the wheel. Why does the City of Torrance allow someone, with two very serious traffic violations, to have their license and driving privileges restored and the charges watered down so that DMV is never advised? I contacted a Victims’ Advocate group and was told that, in essence, victims have no rights, but the guilty party gets the attention and all of their rights protected.

The current situation as I see it:

  • Sara gets a minor traffic citation for “unsafe turning movement” and is allowed to keep her driving privileges.
  • David is dead after suffering through the horrific, agonizing pain of having his body crushed by Sara’s jeep and his head slammed into its hood and onto the pavement.
  • My children and I, and our extended family and friends, had to endure five heart breaking days in the county hospital trauma intensive care unit where David was taken–with no hope of recovery.
  • David’s mother had to put her own cancer treatments on hold to fly from Ohio to California.
  • I have lost my husband of 25 years, and my teenage son and two minor daughters must grow up without the love and counsel of their father.
  • Our family must continue to attend trauma and grief counseling.
  • We had to close David’s business, which he spent 23 years building.
  • Sara’s actions took away our family’s livelihood.

Instead of having appropriate time to grieve, we have had to deal with the immediate and overwhelming financial aftermath of David’s death, including

  • funeral and cemetery expenses
  • enormous bills from the hospital intensive care unit, ambulance, and fire department
  • loss of our family van because it was declared a total loss by the insurance company as a result of the car-pedestrian accident
  • reimbursement of thousands of dollars of personal funds to David’s customers for open business orders that couldn’t be completed
  • countless hours spent preparing financial records and taxes for a business I didn’t run nor work in
  • business creditors giving their heartless “condolences” on the loss of David and then demanding immediate payment from “David’s estate”
  • attorney and legal fees for the myriad of legal processes and documentation made necessary by Sara’s actions

My husband paid for Sara Sherbin’s crime with his life. Sara should at least be held fully accountable under the laws of our state for his death and her grossly negligent actions behind the wheel. I write this in an effort to get the visibility and investigation of this case beyond the City of Torrance’s control, to seek appropriate justice for David, and to let our children know that the woman responsible for his death will be required to face consequences beyond a mere traffic ticket.

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  • Anonymous

    So your telling me that you don’t trust a professional police report? You don’t trust someone who has been doing this for over 18 years? Do you think you and your families lives where the only ones ruined that day? Your husband was found to be partly responsible for his own death and your trying to ruin Sara’s life for that? You should celebrate your husbands life and move on with yours how he would want you to, not trying to destroy another life in the process. Sara has been feeling horrible about this incident as well and your making matters worse by not accepting the truth. He was in the street exiting his vehicle why didn’t he check traffic? It sounds like your not taking responsibility for your husbands actions and your trying to place blame on someone else.

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