Newkirk guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter, jury decides

MARTINEZ, Calif. ­­– A man who was driving without a license Oct. 4, 2017, when he became involved in a five-car fatal collision has been convicted by a Contra Costa County jury of gross vehicular manslaughter, according to an announcement released by Scott Alonso, public information officer in the Office of the Contra Costa County District Attorney.

Frank J. Newkirk is expected to be sentenced Nov. 16 in Martinez by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Baskin. The jury’s verdict was read Tuesday.

Theresa Frazer, 47, of Discovery Bay, the mother of three, was killed in the crash which happened during the morning commute on California Highway 4 in Pittsburg, according to the announcement.

The crash happened on westbound California Highway 4 near the Harbor Road and Railroad Avenue exits where Newkirk, an unlicensed driver, was driving his girlfriend’s 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe when it struck Frazer’s Nissan Sentra.

Frazer was driving her boyfriend to work when the accident happened, the statement said. The Nissan spun around and was crushed, it said.

According to California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports, the Tahoe struck the Nissan, it hit a Dodge truck, an Audi sedan, a Toyota Highlander and a Chevy Trailblazer before resting against a Honda Civic. In addition to Frazer’s death, four other people were injured in the pileup, according to CHP reports.

The CHP closed a portion of the highway was shut down for about three hours after the crash, according to the agency’s report.

CHP conducted the investigation, and determined Newkirk was traveling at an unsafe speed, between 54 and 61 mph, in congested commuter traffic that was slowing down to avoid an unrelated accident, the statement said. The earlier accident involved a motorcycle and a sedan, and did not cause any injuries.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed one count of felony vehicular manslaughter and one count of misdemeanor driving without a license against Newkirk, the statement said.

Investigators obtained evidence that showed the Tahoe’s brakes were never activated before the collision, nor did Newkirk take his foot off the throttle, the statement said.

“Newkirk’s collision led to the unfortunate death of Frazer,” the statement said, adding that restitution in the case would be determined later.

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