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Family OKs Settlement in CHP Crash

Times Staff Writer

The family of an 18-year-old Oxnard woman has agreed to a $1.4-million settlement from the California Highway Patrol, 20 months after she was killed when a speeding CHP cruiser slammed into a car in which she was riding.

“Regardless of the amount, it’s not going to bring my daughter back,” said Edgar Mohorko, whose daughter, Jessica, died instantly March 23, 2002, as she and her boyfriend were driving from a school dance in Oxnard to a nearby restaurant.

“It’s been a pretty tough case, but we’re glad it’s over,” he said.

Jessica Mohorko’s boyfriend, Christopher Haynes, 18, will receive $60,000 in the settlement, officials said.

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Haynes was turning left off Oxnard Boulevard near Gonzales Road when the cruiser, driven by Officer Jack Raughton, broadsided his car.

According to a report by the Ventura County district attorney’s office, Raughton was traveling about 85 mph in a 45-mph zone in pursuit of a motorist suspected of running a red light.

The January report found that Raughton made a momentary error when he failed to reactivate his red emergency lights during the chase, but it said he was not criminally liable for the death of Mohorko, a Hueneme High School senior.

The report, by Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Haney, urged the CHP to review its policies on high-speed pursuits in urban areas.

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Edgar Mohorko, pastor of Messiah Foursquare Church in Oxnard and chairman of the clergy council for the Oxnard Police Department, said he wants to talk to CHP officials in Sacramento about that policy. The officers should be required to give other motorists a warning, he said.

“They had no lights on, no siren, and they were going at an excessive speed,” he said.

But CHP spokesman Tom Marshall said the officers -- Raughton was on patrol with his wife, Officer Christina Raughton -- were following regulations.

“This wasn’t an official pursuit. They had seen a vehicle they wanted to stop and they were trying to catch up with him,” Marshall said.

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“Every time we have an incident like this, the policies are always subject to review,” Marshall said. “After an extensive investigation

Marshall said he believes both officers are back on patrol.

The agreement is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.

Marshall said CHP officials believed they could have prevailed at trial but decided to resolve the suit “for the officers who are having to deal with this, and for the family.”

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“There’s absolutely nothing we can do for this family. Their daughter’s dead. If we can settle it for the same or less than we would spend defending ourselves, why not give it to the family?” Marshall said.

Mohorko said Wednesday that the case won’t be resolved until the CHP examines its policies.

“No amount of money is going to make a difference in the sense of bringing her back, but at least we can try to protect other people,” he said.

“What is it going to take for them to review their policies? One of their children to be killed by a law enforcement agency? All I’m trying to do is protect their families.”

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