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CHP recommends vehicular manslaughter charges for Arnold Riebli

The California Highway Patrol has recommended vehicular manslaughter charges against a prominent Sonoma farmer following a three-car collision that left one woman dead in July.

The case against Arnold Riebli, 78, now sits with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office, which will decide whether or not to move forward with criminal charges after conducting its own review of the evidence.

“It’s in review status for further investigation,” said Carrie Trevena, spokesperson for the DA’s office. She added that the CHP’s investigation of the July 21 collision only recently arrived at their office, and while their own evaluation of the case has only just begun, there is a one-year statute of limitations (from date of offense) for misdemeanor charges to be filed, or three years for a felony.

Following months of investigation, the California Highway Patrol concluded that excessive speed was a factor in the chain-reaction crash that took place around 4:30 p.m. on Old Adobe Road just west of the intersection with Stage Gulch Road. Napa resident Gail Forte, 63, died at the scene according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Three others were injured.

Officials say the crash occurred when Riebli, who was driving east in a Chevrolet Colorado, rear-ended a Chevrolet Silverado driven by Israel Montanez Rodrigues, 51, of Napa, according to CHP.

CHP Officer David deRutte said the force of the initial collision sent the Silverado into the westbound lane where it collided head-on with a Chevy Volt. Forte was a passenger in the Volt. The drivers of the Volt and the Silverado suffered major injuries and were airlifted to an area hospital, officials said.

The charge of excess speed followed preliminary investigations that showed intoxication was not a factor. CHP closed the scene to traffic three hours following the crash to conduct an on-site investigation.

Riebli was elected to the Sonoma Valley Health Care District Board of Directors in 2006, but resigned in 2009 before completing his full term. He is a partner in Sunrise Farms/Nucal foods based in Petaluma, one of the region’s largest egg production facilities.

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