DNA identifies driver in North Whidbey vehicular assault

A 26-year-old Mount Vernon woman is accused of causing a head-on crash on North Whidbey last June that seriously injured the driver of another car, court documents state.

Prosecutors charged Leticia Rincon Garcia in Island County Superior Court March 12 with one count of vehicular assault.

Trooper Scott Witman with the Washington State Patrol investigated the accident that occurred on Highway 20 near the intersection of Monkey Hill Road.

Witman wrote that Rincon Garcia and a friend, Janet Estrada, were drinking at the Element night club in downtown Oak Harbor until closing time on June 5, 2011. The two women went to an apartment and continued drinking until Estrada blacked out. The women returned to the club at about 4 a.m. and allegedly got into Rincon Garcia’s 2006 Nissan Altima and she drove north toward Mount Vernon.

A witness reported that the Nissan Altima continued straight and crossed over the center line as the roadway curved near the intersection with Monkey Hill Road. The Nissan Altima was traveling north in the oncoming lane, the trooper wrote, and collided head-on with a southbound 1996 Saturn.

The driver of the Saturn, 60-year-old Oak Harbor resident Maria Whitmore, sustained fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and facial lacerations, according to the trooper’s report.

Both Rincon Garcia and Estrada were outside of the vehicle before troopers and deputies arrived, so investigators had some difficulty determining which one was driving. The two women originally told a deputy that “a guy” had been driving the Nissan Altima, but Estrada later claimed she had been driving. During questioning, Rincon Garcia kept telling her friend “to be quiet and they were just passengers,” Witman wrote.

Witman collected the driver’s airbag, which had deployed, and fabric from the driver’s seat. He noted that the airbag had a small amount of blood on it. He sent the items to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for testing. The lab found that the DNA deposits on the airbag and driver’s seat match Rincon Garcia’s DNA profile, according to the trooper’s report.

Blood tests showed that Rincon Garcia had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 g/100mL at the time of the blood draw. Under state law, 0.8 is considered the legal limit for driving.

If convicted of the charge against her, Rincon Garcia would face from one to nine months in jail under the standard sentencing range.


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