25-year-old McKinleyville woman pleaded not guilty today to running
over and killing a pedestrian Saturday morning while driving drunk.
Attorney Manny Daskal, hired to represent Shala Marie Bianco, entered not guilty pleas to three felony counts and several special allegations. Bianco is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, drunken driving causing injury, and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. One of the special allegations is that her blood alcohol was at .15 or higher, nearly twice the legal limit.
Bianco also is accused of fleeing the scene after her 1997 Toyota struck and killed Clinton Eugene Deckert II as he walked along Central Avenue shortly before 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Bianco sped away after hitting the 47-year-old Deckert. She called the CHP in under an hour to admit she was the driver. She has been in custody since about 9 Saturday morning.
Bianco appeared in court today in a blue jail jumpsuit and handcuffs, glancing briefly at family members in the courtroom audience. At Daskal’s request, Judge Timothy Canning ordered that she be seen today by the jail’s medical staff. Jail personnel had questioned whether she should be brought down to court.
“She seems fine to me,” Daskal said, “but she’s having a little bit of a struggle.”
Also at Daskal’s request, the case was referred to the Probation Department for evaluation on whether Bianco is eligible for supervised release. That hearing is set for Friday afternoon. Canning raised bail today from $105,000 to $180,000.
The preliminary hearing has been scheduled for July 11.
According to her Facebook page, Bianco has a 2-year-old son. This afternoon her parents and a family friend were in court for the arraignment. Afterward they spoke with Daskal in the courthouse hallway.
According to the CHP, Bianco was driving northbound when she made “an unsafe turn” that caused her vehicle to drift onto the shoulder of the road and strike Deckert. The collision occurred near Central Avenue and Bella Vista Road, just north of the Highway 101 exit.
The penalty for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can be up to eight years in state prison, but the other charges and special allegations could add more time.
Deckert, also a McKinleyville resident, posted his last Facebook message on April 3. As he wrote it: “my life is complicated but I live on. and no one can stop me! yes I will always be here for you and everyone else!!!”
Under the post, which is addressed to no one in particular, is a photo of his face framed by a heart.
Deputy District Attorney Whitney Timm has been assigned to prosecute Bianco.