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Still no charges against Sonoma driver in fatal crash

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Ignacio Valencia limped out of court Friday after Sonoma County prosecutors asked a judge for a second extension to pursue evidence that would prove he was intoxicated during a Highway 12 car crash that killed a Santa Rosa man.

Valencia, 38, of Sonoma, faces a possible charge of gross vehicular manslaughter for his role in the May 2 crash that ended the life of Troy Ersan, a 25-year-old financial analyst.

CHP investigators suspect he was under the influence of drugs when his Chevrolet Tahoe swerved into oncoming traffic, crashing head-on into Ersan’s Subaru Impreza. Valencia, who broke his ankle in the wreck and wore a knee-high brace to court, said the accident was caused by equipment failure.

“My front end gave out,” Valencia said Friday outside the courtroom. “Traffic started to pick up, and when I hit 50 my car started shaking. I heard something snap, then it pulled hard to the left and we smashed like two magnets.”

Valencia said he wasn’t under the influence of drugs at the time. He hopes the next time he’s due back in court June 14, the investigation will exonerate him.

Ersan’s mother, Kim Ersan, 59, of Santa Rosa, attended the hearing accompanied by a prosecutor and a victim advocate.

“My thoughts are that he (Valencia) is a bad man who’s done other bad things to people,” Ersan said. “We’ll try to get him put away.”

Valencia has been sentenced for six misdemeanors and one felony in Sonoma County since 2014, according to court records. None of them was for driving under the influence.

Most recently, Valencia was sentenced to 90 days in jail Jan. 30 for driving without a license. He received 36 months probation in May 2015 after being found guilty of receiving stolen property, a felony, and driving without a license.

“He hasn’t followed the rules of society,” Ersan said. “He was driving without a license and didn’t have insurance.”

Ersan’s family held a memorial service for him Sunday at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood, his mother said. Nearly 200 people came out dressed in white to celebrate his life.

“He was an awesome guy,” Kim Ersan said. “He listened and looked people in the eye and whether you were a hippie or billionaire he’d tell you just what he thought.”

Troy Ersan graduated from Willits High School with honors in 2011. He earned an associate degree from Santa Rosa Junior College before going to California State University Long Beach, where he earned a bachelors in economics.

After graduation, Ersan took a job as a financial analyst with First Republic Bank, where he handled winery accounts throughout Sonoma and Napa counties, his mother said.

“He was sharp, funny, witty and handsome,” Ersan said. “Hard to find fault with Troy.”

Ersan’s best friend was his older brother Austin Ersan, 27, who owns Sonoma Strength Academy in Santa Rosa, his mother said. The two worked out together and were both studying Turkish, the native language of their father, Rahmi Ersan, who emigrated from Turkey.

The last time Valencia appeared in court was May 4, when prosecutors asked for a three-week extension because they didn’t have enough evidence to file charges.

He had been arrested by CHP the day before on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter. He spent one night in Sonoma County Jail but was released when no charges were filed.

Outside the courtroom Friday, Valencia was asked if he had anything to say to Ersan’s family. His eyes welled up with tears and his voice cracked when he tried to speak.

“I feel really bad for the family,” Valencia said as he shed a few tears. “I couldn’t help it. It’s not my fault. I couldn’t help it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.