Driver Gets Maximum Term in Fatal Crash

A 35-year-old Arleta man was sentenced Monday to six years in prison for causing a five-car accident that killed a Bakersfield couple and injured three other people.

Saying he was “a danger to society,” Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Judith Meisels Ashmann sentenced Michael Augustine Mares to the maximum possible term in jail.

Mares was convicted last month of two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter in the April 17, 1989, deaths of Charlotte Knowlden, 66, and her husband, James, 69. The jury also convicted Mares of reckless driving but acquitted him of two counts of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kenneth A. Loveman had asked for the maximum term, saying Mares had three prior drug-related driving convictions. But Mares’ attorney, Michael V. White, asked that Mares be put on probation, arguing that his imprisonment would deprive Mares’ young son of his father.


The accident occurred when Mares drove on the wrong side of a Sepulveda street, ran a red light and struck a northbound pickup truck and a car driven by James Knowlden. Knowlden’s car crashed into two other cars.