Almanac

News - June 11, 2014

Menlo Park: Driver charged with murder in double fatality

by Sandy Brundage

An extensive history of driving under the influence and an earlier car accident the same day led to the filing of second-degree murder charges against a driver who struck and killed a Menlo Park couple out for a walk, according to the San Mateo County district attorney.

After a preliminary hearing in San Mateo County Superior Court on June 5, a judge agreed that the evidence supports the two additional charges against 54-year-old Marjorie Ann Reitzell of Redwood City. Last fall the defendant pleaded not guilty to earlier charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony driving under the influence.

She was arrested on Oct. 24 after a car crash killed Balbir Singh, 50, and Kamal Kaur Singh, 45, as they walked their Chihuahua along Chilco Street.

Early that evening, a 1998 Honda Accord driven by Ms. Reitzell struck the couple from behind, according to police. Investigators said the Honda kept going, over the center median and into the westbound lane. It hit another car and then collided with a tree before stopping.

The Singhs left behind three teenage children; their eldest daughter is scheduled to start college this year.

Testing reportedly determined that Ms. Reitzell's blood alcohol level on Oct. 24 was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Convicted of a misdemeanor DUI in November 2012, Ms. Reitzell had a valid driver's license at the time of the fatal collision, according to law enforcement officials.

Mr. Wagstaffe said that her probation officer had warned the defendant that she could kill someone by drinking and driving. Ms. Reitzell allegedly engaged in a "lengthy pattern of drinking on the day of the offense," he told the Almanac, and had reportedly caused a non-injury collision earlier in the day on Oct. 24.

Prosecutors said they aren't suggesting she intended to kill anyone, but "taken together, it demonstrates the legal requirement for second-degree murder — callous disregard for the safety of others resulting in death," Mr. Wagstaffe said.

Ms. Reitzell remains in custody on $2 million bail. The court scheduled her arraignment on the murder charges for June 20.

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