Driver, 19, Pleads Guilty in Fatal DUI Crash

Timothy Barnette, 19, was driving under the influence on SR-56 during a fatal May 16 crash that killed Nick Hart, 22

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    NBC 7 San Diego
    Timothy Barnette in an earlier court appearance on May 31, 2013.

    A 19-year-old man who fatally crashed his car into another driver on State Route 56 earlier this year pleaded guilty in court Thursday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence.

    With this guilty plea, Timothy Barnette will be sentenced to six years in state prison on Dec. 13 for causing the head-on crash that killed Nick Hart, 22, in Rancho Penasquitos on May 16.

    Prosecutors say Barnette was driving under the influence of Xanax, marijuana and possibly inhalants at time of the fatal collision.

    That day, at around 9:45 a.m., Barnette was driving a Land Rover traveling eastbound on SR-56, just east of Black Mountain Road, when his car drifted into the center median and into opposing traffic lanes of westbound SR-56.

    Charges Pending in Fatal Crash

    [DGO] Charges Pending in Fatal Crash
    Timothy Barnette, the teenager behind the wheel of a Land Rover involved in a fatal crash eastbound on SR-56 east of Black Mountain Road Thursday, is under investigation according to the CHP. NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports. (Published Friday, May 17, 2013)

    At the same time, Hart – a graduate of Poway High School -- was driving a Toyota traveling westbound on SR-56. Barnette’s Land Rover struck Hart’s car, and Hart was killed in the crash.

    CHP officials arrested Barnette following the fatal collision on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. He was then released to a local hospital for immediate care because he suffered major injuries in the crash.

    Two weeks later, CHP officials confirmed Barnette had been arrested and booked into jail on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence of a controlled substance causing injury or death.

    He’s been behind bars ever since.

    Fatal Accident Halts Traffic in Rancho Penasquitos

    [DGO] Fatal Accident Halts Traffic in Rancho Penasquitos
    A man is dead after two cars collided on state Route 56 on Thursday morning in Rancho Penasquitos. (Published Thursday, May 16, 2013)

    On May 31, Barnette appeared in court for his arraignment and pleaded not guilty to charges. At the time, he was still recovering from injuries sustained in the fatal crash and sat in a wheelchair, wearing a cast, as the charges against him were read.

    Deputy District Attorney Roy Lai said a preliminary toxicology report revealed that Barnette was driving under the influence of Xanax and marijuana.

    Lai also revealed that three separate phone calls were made to 911 on May 16 regarding Barnette’s allegedly erratic driving, which including weaving in and out of traffic and running red lights.

    Lai said one caller reported Barnette driving on the curb at Ted Williams Parkway, another caller said Barnette was driving recklessly on the I-15 onramp at SR-56 and a third caller reported Barnette allegedly driving erratically on Camino Del Sur.

    After that final call was placed, Lai said Barnette got back on SR-56 and moments later, the fatal crash involving Hart occurred.

    Many witnesses testified in court about Barnette’s erratic driving on the day of the crash, with many saying Barnette was swerving on the road and cutting off cars.

    A California Highway Patrol officer also testified in the case and said Barnette had admitted to taking Xanax pills and smoking marijuana two days before the accident, as well as inhaling computer keyboard cleaner two months earlier.

    When officials searched Barnette’s car, they found two cans of computer keyboard cleaner inside, one of which was empty, the CHP officer testified.

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