Woman to Stand Trial in Hit-and-Run Death

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Woodland Hills woman was ordered to stand trial Monday on charges of vehicular manslaughter for allegedly running over a 13-year-old boy who had just stepped off a school bus.

Joan H. Mills, 59, is also accused of hit-and-run driving for allegedly fleeing the scene of the Nov. 19 accident at the intersection of Oxnard Avenue and Shoup Street that took the life of Matthew Fischer.

At a preliminary hearing in Van Nuys Municipal Court, police testified that witnesses indicated that Mills was traveling at least 40 miles per hour in a school zone and that she ran a red light after shaking her finger at another motorist.

Fischer, who was a student at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Reseda, was crossing Shoup in the crosswalk when he was struck, according to police. He died about 30 minutes after he was hit.

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ralph Kemptner testified that he spoke with Mills' husband, who had returned to the scene of the fatal accident after his wife allegedly fled, and later went to the Mills' home to examine the woman's light blue Toyota Corolla.

"The damage to this vehicle is consistent with the striking of a pedestrian," Kemptner said, pointing to photographs of dents near a headlight and at the base of the windshield.

The officer said he believes Mills hit Fischer near the right headlight, which threw the boy onto the hood of the car. The dent near the windshield shows where either his head or his elbow impacted.

Sgt. Monte Houze said that when he was taking Mills to the police station, she blurted out: "I thought it was a dog."

But shortly thereafter, Houze said, she asked, "Did he die?" or "Did the little boy die?" Houze said he could not remember her exact words.

Mills' attorney, Mike R. Horwitz of Woodland Hills, declined to comment on the case.

After the hearing, Judge Michael S. Luros expressed condolences to the Fischer family for the tragic accident, and he suggested that they find some small degree of comfort in the outpouring of support that they have received from the community.

The judge said he had received well over 100 letters commenting on the case. In court Monday, the boy's parents, Herman and Carol Fischer, and his younger brother, 10-year-old Cory, were accompanied by half a dozen friends and an equal number of the boy's schoolmates.

Mills, who is scheduled to appear in Superior Court May 23, remains free after posting $15,000 bail.

If convicted of the vehicular manslaughter charge, Mills would face a maximum sentence of six years in state prison. The hit-and-run charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.

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