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SONOMA COUNTY
Murder charges possible in deaths of 2 bicyclists
Drivers accused in separate accidents allegedly were drunk

- Pamela J. Podger, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 29, 2004

© 2004- The Chronicle

A Sonoma County prosecutor says he may seek second-degree murder charges against two suspected drunken drivers accused of killing two bicyclists eight days apart earlier this month.

Deputy District Attorney William Brockley, in court Wednesday on both cases, said a decision on murder charges will follow an evaluation of evidence gathered during the investigations of both deadly accidents.

"You bet, if I have the evidence,'' Brockley said. "The investigation continues, and we're trying to determine if it is an appropriate charge.''

Brockley also unveiled new evidence in one case showing the driver allegedly was involved in a non-injury hit-and-run incident about 45 minutes before the fatal accident.

The prosecutor said defendant William Albertson, 46, of Lake County, hit the rear bumper of another car stopped at a red light in Santa Rosa on the afternoon of April 19 and then drove off. At 5:20 p.m., authorities say Albertson hit and killed bicyclist Daniel O'Reilly, 43, of Agua Caliente as he peddled home on Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa.

Given that Albertson's blood alcohol level was 0.22 (more than double the legal limit) after the O'Reilly accident, Brockley said it is likely that Albertson was drunk at 4:38 p.m. when he allegedly hit the other car.

The other driver, who wasn't injured, gave Santa Rosa police officers a license plate number that later turned out to be for Albertson's vehicle. If proved, the prior accident could add five years to any sentence Albertson gets if convicted in the O'Reilly case.

Albertson's bail was increased Wednesday from $30,000 to $100,000, but he remains behind bars on a hold for violating parole from a prior prison sentence for felony assault. He has pleaded not guilty to felony drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter charges in the pending case.

In the other case, defendant Harvey D. Hereford, 69, of Santa Rosa was taken into custody when a judge increased his $60,000 bail to $200,000. He has pleaded not guilty to felony drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter charges.

Driving with a suspended license, Hereford was pulled over at 11:20 a.m. on April 11 after police say he hit and killed Alan Liu, 31, of Mountain View, who was bicycling in Sonoma County with his girlfriend, Jill Mason, 26, of Cupertino. Mason was also hit and remains hospitalized in serious condition with brain injuries and a severed spinal cord.

Toxicology reports indicate that Hereford's blood alcohol level was 0.29, more than three times the legal limit, Brockley said.

About 20 cyclists attended both hearings and gave hugs to the victims' relatives after the court action.

"The whole question of motorists being held personally responsible for what they do is something that all the bicycle community is taking very seriously,'' said Martin Clinton, president of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club.

Rita Wells, the mother of Alan Liu, said more than 400 people attended her son's memorial service on April 25 in Palo Alto. Liu, an engineer at Applied Materials, was a coach at the Mountain View Master's swim club.

A Web site compiled by Jill Mason's family said she is improving steadily and may be able to be released from the hospital to a Santa Clara rehabilitation facility in the next few weeks.

A memorial service Wednesday for O'Reilly attracted about 200 colleagues, friends and family members at Kendall-Jackson Winery, where he had been a market analyst for 15 years, said spokesman George Rose. O'Reilly leaves behind a wife and two daughters. One of the conference rooms for monthly competitive tastings was renamed Daniel's Pub in his honor.

E-mail Pamela J. Podger at ppodger@sfchronicle.com.

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/09/28/BAGVO903NQ1.DTL


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