The youth on the bicycle was lying dead in the road. The $80,000 1986 Porsche had a crumpled front end and a shattered windshield. Nearby, a worried young man said his father had been driving the car but had wandered away from the accident in shock.
An hour later, sheriff’s deputies in a helicopter sighted the 47-year-old father, dazed and groggy, in a street a mile away.
But looking back at the Sept. 8 fatal collision in Laguna Hills, California Highway Patrol investigators are saying the only things real that night were the body and the banged-up sports car. The worried son and the shocked father, according to CHP officer Patrick Barnard, put on “an Academy Award-winning act.”
Acting on a telephone tip and unexplained details from the accident investigation, the CHP now says it was the son who was driving, alone in the car. And police have pieced together what they say now was a plot by the two to pin the fatal traffic accident on the father--not the son--when the son panicked about the car’s insurance.
The plot, hatched by telephone after the accident, involved having the father race down from Culver City 50 miles away, then wander near the accident. To account for the hour’s drive from the city, the son would tell officers, who would arrive on the scene quickly, that his father was wandering in the vicinity, forcing police to search for him.
But the day after the accident, according to CHP and the son, both father and son admitted to police that they had lied. Ronald A. Haw, the father, said he was at home when his son, Gary, crashed into Jason Theodore Klein, 17, of Laguna Hills, police said.
No one has been arrested in connection with the incident, pending the completion of a CHP investigation late next week, CHP officer Bernard said.
“It’s a scary story,” Barnard said Thursday. “How can anybody be like that? How far can you go to protect your kid?”
In interviews Thursday, both the CHP and Gary Haw said that Gary, 24, of Laguna Niguel, was driving his father’s Porsche--which is not insured for drivers under 25--westbound on Alicia Parkway when he hit Jason Klein as the youth was turning left into a shopping center. Gary Haw said he was driving 45 m.p.h., the speed limit on that road. The CHP said he was driving about 70 m.p.h.
The impact knocked Jason more than 300 feet, the CHP said, killing him instantly.
As Jason and his mangled bicycle lay in the road, Gary Haw walked up to a gas station pay telephone and made two calls, the CHP and Haw say.
“All I remember was the shatter of glass,” Gary Haw said. “I looked up the street and realized there was nothing I could do for the kid. One morbid thing came into my mind. The kid was negligent. The only way to get anyone to pay for this is to sue the parent’s insurance company.”
So Haw said he called his father and told him to hurry down to Laguna Hills. Next, he called a former neighbor in Laguna Hills.
Haw quickly outlined a plan with the former neighbor, Linda Diane Eder, to put his father behind the wheel of the Porsche, the CHP said. According to the scenario outlined by the CHP, Eder was to flag down Ronald Haw at the Alicia Parkway offramp from the San Diego Freeway. She was to tell the elder Haw to wander around about a mile from the scene, pretending to be in shock because of the accident and say he drove the Porsche, the CHP said.
CHP officers said Eder telephoned their office afterward and tipped them that the Haws had lied. Ronald Haw and Linda Eder could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Police still want to talk to a man who was driving an older-model white Ford courier pickup truck. The man, who used his truck to shield the body of the bicyclist as it lay on the road, may be an eyewitness to the accident, Barnard said. The Haws are cooperating with the investigation, he said.
“You’re scared,” Gary Haw said Thursday in explaining the events of Sept. 8. “My God, I just got a dead kid, wrecked my dad’s car and don’t know how to pay for it.”
Haw said he never directly spoke to his father about the macabre charade until the two met at the accident scene.
“I never talked to my dad, just my neighbor,” Haw said. “I’m surprised my dad went along with any of it. He was probably scared just like I was.”
The night of the accident, his mother and father talked with him at his house, Haw said, and the family decided to tell CHP officers the truth. “My mother was hysterical,” Haw said. “She didn’t know what my father and I were going to do.”
The morning after the accident, a CHP investigator called the father and reminded him it was aainst the law to give false information to a peace officer, Barnard said.
Later that day, the Haws called police to confess to the deception.
Tina Klein, mother of the victim, said she had not heard from the Haws. “The lord has protected us from being angry,” she said at her home Thursday. “Upset perhaps, but not angry. I think they are hurting too, somehow.”
Jason, the youngest child in the family, is survived by three brothers and a sister, as well as his parents. The young man wanted to be a sheriff’s deputy, his mother said, and was taking classes at Saddleback College.
The night of the accident, he was out for a ride on a new bicycle he had just bought, she said.
“He cleaned the bike, gave me a big hug, and said ‘Momma, I’ll be back in half an hour,’ ” Tina Klein said. “He usually didn’t hug me anymore. He said he was getting too old for that.”