Cyclist Was Unaware of Fatal Crash, Wife Says : Traffic: Her version contradicts other accounts. Victims are identified as Mark and Rowena Gold.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The wife of a motorcyclist accused of causing the death of a Reseda couple in a traffic crash defended her husband Friday, saying he kicked the couple's car door only after the auto almost hit him while squeezing past him on the right.

Sandra Ruthman, 27, said her husband, Marty, 33, had no notion when he rode away that the car then crashed into a tree. Other witnesses dispute her version, saying the motorcyclist appeared to look directly at the crash.

Police identified the dead couple Friday as Mark and Rowena Gold of Reseda. Mark Gold, 45, was an electrical engineer on disability leave from Hughes Aircraft Corp. and Rowena, 52, was a housewife, according to their daughter, Lisa, 19.

Marty Ruthman was arrested Thursday on suspicion of murder for allegedly causing the fatal crash by kicking the couple's Honda Accord as it sped east on Victory Boulevard in Reseda at about 50 m.p.h. The driver of the car lost control and crashed into a tree, killing both occupants.

Ruthman was being held at the West Valley Police Station until Monday, when police said they will ask the district attorney's office to file charges. Though Ruthman was arrested on suspicion of murder, it is up to the district attorney to decide whether to file the murder charges, police said.

The Golds' daughter said she was shocked to learn Thursday that her parents had died.

"A friend called me and just blurted out: 'Lisa, your parents are dead,' " she said Friday at her parents' townhouse on Reseda Boulevard.

"I thought she had a screw loose or something."

She said she had moved back home with her mother and stepfather in January after living with a boyfriend. She said they had been married for six years and enjoyed traveling and taking long walks.

Police said Mark Gold was driving his wife home from a dental appointment in Woodland Hills when he became involved in the traffic dispute with Ruthman.

Police and other motorists who witnessed the Golds' deaths said the dispute began when Mark Gold tried to pass Ruthman, who was riding three abreast with his wife and a friend, Delores Glickman, 49.

Sandra Ruthman said in an interview that the three Harley-Davidsons were taking up both eastbound lanes--she and Glickman on the left, her husband on the right. They were traveling only 30 m.p.h. because it was the first time she had ridden on a public street, Sandra Ruthman said.

Sandra Ruthman said the car's driver forced his way past by driving partially on the right shoulder of the road, coming so dangerously close that her husband was almost knocked off his cycle.

She acknowledged that Marty Ruthman became angry, caught up to the car and kicked the door three times, yelling at the occupants, then rode ahead. But she said the auto driver did not lose control until her husband was more than a block ahead of the car.

She contradicted other witnesses, who said Marty Ruthman appeared to have clearly seen Gold's car crash into a tree near Yolanda Avenue, then sped away.

"It all happened so fast," Sandra Ruthman said at her husband's auto repair shop in Sherman Oaks. "Marty didn't know what happened."

Unaware there was an accident, she said, he continued on to the shop.

However, several witnesses told reporters that Marty Ruthman must have seen the accident before riding away. Gary Morgan, 21, of Van Nuys said in an interview that Ruthman swerved in front of the car, causing the driver to brake and veer to the right. The car skidded over the curb, scraped along a brick wall and hit the tree, he said.

Detective Rick Swanston said witnesses agreed that the car passed Ruthman on the right. But he said the witnesses also said that Ruthman looked over his shoulder and appeared to see the crash before he sped off.

Ruthman, a longtime motorcyclist, is a member of the Van Nuys Harley Owners' Group. He has been the sole owner of his automobile repair shop on Woodman Avenue for more than five years. Before that, he was part-owner of the shop, said Paul Wilson, one of Ruthman's mechanics.

Wilson described his boss as an experienced motorcycle rider.

"I would not call him a reckless driver," he said. "He has never come unglued."

Wilson said he has received three anonymous telephone calls from people threatening to blow up the shop because of the accusation against Ruthman, but also several calls from friends offering money for Ruthman's bail.

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