SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KRON) — A 38-year-old Santa Rosa woman who was convicted of killing a man in a cocaine and alcohol-fueled rage was denied parole by a state parole board.
Heather Anne Howell is serving a 15-years-to-life prison sentence for killing Jesse Garcia, 56. On Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations Board of Parole denied granting Howell freedom.
On July 12, 2012, Howell was intoxicated from alcohol and high on cocaine when she got into a heated argument with her boyfriend, Tony Kraus, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.
Howell and Kraus were drinking at a bar before they went to Howell’s home and argued about Kraus’ ex-girlfriends. Kraus told police that his girlfriend was angry because she discovered that he had cheated on her with another woman, according to court documents.
When Kraus abruptly walked away from the argument and drove off on his motorcycle, his girlfriend followed in her black Acura coupe, court documents state.
One witness testified that she saw a car following a motorcycle at about 60-70 miles per hour. The woman driving the car had the “majority of her upper body out the window, long blond hair flowing, pointing a finger and chasing behind a motorcycle,” court documents state.
“Howell proceeded to pursue Kraus in her vehicle on a miles-long, high-speed chase through the streets of Santa Rosa. The chase ended on Hall Road when Howell slammed into the back of the classic convertible car driven by Mr. Garcia,” prosecutors wrote.
Garcia was trapped under his car as it was engulfed in flames. He died at the scene.
Howell was put on trial twice before jurors found her guilty of second-degree murder, reckless driving causing great bodily injury, and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with a prior DUI conviction.
Howell has so far served 10 years behind bars. Although Howell was sentenced to 15 years-to-life in prison, her first parole eligibility date arrived this week.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said Wednesday, “Ten years ago … the Garcia family lost a beloved husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend in an alcohol and cocaine-fueled road rage incident. Ms. Howell continues to pose an unreasonable risk to the public, and as such, the denial of parole was the only acceptable outcome.”
During her appearance in front of the parole board, Howell waived her right to a contested hearing. As a result, the parole board issued a 3-year denial. In citing their reasoning for the denial, the parole board noted that the homicide was not simply an issue of substance abuse, but also involved domestic violence, stalking, and reckless disregard for the community, prosecutors said.
The parole board also found that Howell continued to demonstrate “criminal thinking” in some of her conduct while incarcerated, including fighting in prison, and manipulating the system to avoid paying court-ordered restitution, prosecutors said.
Ravitch said, “Hopefully, Ms. Howell will spend her time in prison reflecting on how she, and she alone, took this man’s life, and how she will ensure that it never happens again.”