Four months after a crash that shook the quiet of rustic Silverado Canyon, prosecutors on Monday announced murder charges against a chronic speeder whose pickup truck hit and killed a close neighborhood friend and injured two others.
Shane Kenneth Young, 26, appeared briefly in court Monday to face a grand jury indictment charging him with second-degree murder and felony drunk driving. A Superior Court judge postponed his arraignment until March 15.
The case is unusual because Orange County prosecutors seldom seek murder charges against drivers who kill. Most defendants instead have faced vehicular manslaughter charges, which can carry a lighter sentence.
Young's pickup fatally struck pedestrian Jasmin Marie Cook, police said, as Young and a second driver raced down the narrow and winding Silverado Canyon Road on the evening of Oct. 16. Two men riding their bicycles on the shoulder beside Cook were struck and injured.
The crash stunned the 900-member community where Young had a reputation for fast driving and where he and Cook, 20, were such close friends that her family pleaded that he not be charged.
The crash also led to the demise of a little-known Department of Motor Vehicles study that had allowed Young to keep driving even though he had enough speeding tickets to have lost his license months earlier. Young was unknowingly part of a control group in the study, which dealt with punishment of errant drivers, and thus his license was not suspended last year despite his five traffic tickets in 1993.
The indictment, handed down under seal last Thursday, ended months of speculation on whether Young would be charged. During that time, the district attorney's office sent the case back to California Highway Patrol investigators three times for further work.
Young was released from custody less than a week after the crash, when prosecutors decided the evidence against him was insufficient. Following the indictment, he was arrested again Friday at a relative's home in Victorville and taken to Orange County Jail, where he is being held. Bail is set at $250,000.
The other driver was arrested and released after the crash, and has not been charged.
"People think we can file these cases overnight," Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Molko said. "It's not so."
The second-degree murder charge is based on the allegation that Young should have known that his action endangered life. That theory of "implied malice" was also the basis for the murder conviction in December of Laguna Beach physician Ronald Allen, who had a history of drunk-driving arrests before he was involved in a head-on collision in 1993 that killed two occupants of the other car.
Allen, 32, became one of the few drivers in Orange County to be charged with and convicted of second-degree murder in deaths caused by drunk driving. Molko was also the prosecutor in the Allen case.
Molko declined to discuss any evidence, such as results of tests on Young's blood or witness accounts, presented during 2 1/2 days of testimony before the grand jury. The transcripts will remain sealed at least until Young is arraigned.
Attempts to reach Cook's parents, Edward and Tyra Cook, were unsuccessful.
Young's mother, Diane Young, attended the court session Monday but declined to comment.
CHP spokeswoman Angel Johnson said investigators were satisfied that their probe finally had produced a grand jury indictment. The agency had suggested earlier that prosecutors were dragging their feet on the potentially touchy case.
Molko said prosecutors were under "no unusual pressure" to file charges in Young's case, which has received widespread media attention and is likely to be closely watched because of the murder charges.