Not guilty plea entered in auto fatality by woman, 92
Published - 09/13/15 - 11:32 AM | 2974 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A not guilty plea was entered on behalf of a 92-year-old woman accused of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the 2014 death of Melissa Ratcliff, killed when she was struck on Girard Avenue in La Jolla as the driver backed up without looking.

Because the charge is a misdemeanor, Mary Catherine O’Neil did not appear in San Diego Superior Court. Instead, her attorney faxed her not guilty plea on Sept. 9. Her next hearing is set for Oct. 14.

When City Attorney Jan Goldsmith filed the charge Aug. 19, he said he did not want her to serve time in jail but that he is seeking the surrender of her driver’s license and to get restitution to the victim’s family. Goldsmith also wanted to ensure that O’Neil does not drive again.

O’Neil now lives in a retirement home in the eastern United States and is free on bond.

The incident occurred on Oct. 7, 2014, around noon, when Ratcliff, 45, had parked on the east side of Girard and was standing by her trunk when O’Neil backed her car out of a diagonal parking space across the street.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, O’Neil did not use her rearview mirror, and Ratcliff was pinned against the car next to her, fatally injured. There were no drugs or alcohol involved.

Ratcliff was the vice president of marketing and events for the San Diego Chamber of Commerce at the time and had served as deputy of communications for Vice President Al Gore.

-- Neal Putnam

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