Day breaks. And the last thing you imagine is that by noon, your friend will be dead: your beaming, peaches-and-cream friend. And that three weeks later you’ll be under arrest for killing her.
Just before 10 a.m. on October 20 on Pleasanton’s Foothill Road, nineteen-year-old Katie McKewon lost control of her Ford Mustang coupe and crashed head-on into a Mercedes SUV. Sustaining critical head trauma, the seventy-year-old SUV driver survived. Ejected out her passenger-door window, McKewon sustained critical head trauma too, but survived. Her seat-belted passenger, nineteen-year-old pal Laurel Williams, died. “A large bottle of vodka” was in the coupe, one-third full and open in a location “accessible to both the driver and the passenger,” says Pleasanton Police Sgt. Mike Collins. They’d attended an all-night party at the house of another pal’s parents, who weren’t home. The Alameda County Coroner’s Office tells Apprehension tersely that Williams died of “skull fracture and cerebral contusions.” Investigators have not established whether her head struck the roof, door, or McKewon’s hurtling form. The damage was terrible. “We have been told by the coroner,” Collins says, “that her injuries were not survivable.”
“You looked so different,” a friend noted at Williams’ MySpace page after attending an October 24 mortuary visitation. “But you still looked beautiful. So Beautiful.” A photograph of bikinied, blond-ponytailed Williams tops the page on which she calls herself Laur♥Baby and lists her location as “where the sunshine never fades.” Messages posted prior to the Wells Fargo bank teller/Las Positas College student’s death are fun, effusive, eerie in retrospect. On August 12: “i love you silly girl.” September 4: “thanks for being the best best friend a girl could ask for.” October 14: “word! we all gotta get drunk.” October 15: “lol … we were supposed to go to like 5 parties but we ended up at a party with marty in pleasanton and we were like playin beer pong all night!” We’ve pretty much all been there — or envied the popular kids who were. We just never thought it would kill us.
At Pleasanton Weekly forums, locals accuse cops of bungling the case. As of November 2, an arrest had yet to be made: “Katie is not in jail, but relaxing,” one raged. Citing computer records showing that officers were dispatched to the accident scene within two minutes of getting the first call from a witness at 9:58 a.m., explaining that ambulances serve the whole county and often must travel far after being summoned, and noting that blood-test results can take six weeks to complete, Collins fumes that life isn’t like CSI. With their “accusations and conspiracy theories,” he says, anonymous forums “are a soap opera.” He further compares them to ding-dong ditch and The Ox-Bow Incident, a 1943 Henry Fonda film about a Wild West lynch mob.
“Not that I’m defending drinking and driving,” Collins told Apprehension at the time. “It’s just that everyone’s ready to string this girl up and she’s got a right to a fair trial.” By November 9, McKewon was being held without bail on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony drunk driving. Those long-awaited test results have revealed that her blood-alcohol level was three times the California limit.
After a November 4 Lexus/Honda Accord crash on I-80 in Oakland killed San Leandro’s Kim Hoang on her 22nd birthday, 22-year-old Mayra Lombera of Berkeley and 24-year-old Tony Phan of San Jose were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Hoang’s Xanga page displays pictures from her recent UC Berkeley graduation. Last year, she wrote: “I want to be a good child to my parents. … I want to be a good Catholic. … I want so much in my life to balance everything and I try and I try and somehow I always fail somewhere. … I just need to step up my game and f*cken rock it.”
Don’t let drunk people drive you anywhere.
Halloween havoc: Shivers ensued as a woman told Walnut Creek cops that, according to the log, her “deceased ex is in the home wearing surgical gloves and removing her items.” Also, a Creeker chased four kids who he claimed had stolen his jack-o’-lanterns “and smashed them in the street.” One of the escaping squash-stealers lost his shoes, which the caller kept as evidence. Through the tunnel, a Berkeleyite reported the theft of a “pumpkin with candle inside,” according to the log, which describes the suspects as “two groups of five-to-seven-year-olds wearing disguises.” And someone wanting still more treats smashed Sweet Dreams’ window.
Laptop dance: Emeryville businesses faced further incursions as computers were stolen last month from Lyris Technologies (four laptops), Bionovo (five laptops), Emery Tech (five laptops), and even — is nothing sacred?! — the Nutty Cookie (one desktop).
Nay, palm: A four-foot-tall potted date palm weighing some 75 pounds was stolen from the porch of a house in Oakland’s Maxwell Park district on the evening of November 2 — while the family was inside. They bought a new palm, locked its pot to the porch. On November 6 it too was swiped.
Public works: Even given Daylight Savings Time, there was still enough daylight around 4:30 p.m. on November 5 for the curly-haired man with what the Berkeley police log calls a “well-sculpted chest” to be plainly visible “completely naked and masturbating on the sidewalk” at Ridge Road near Euclid “between the bushes and garbage.” Always a turn-on, that Northside trash.