Suspect in DUI death of Menlo Park couple has prior drunken driving conviction

The alleged drunken driver suspected of striking and killing two people Thursday in Menlo Park as they walked their dog has a DUI conviction from 2012, according to San Mateo County court records.

Marjorie Reitzell, 54, of Redwood City was arrested Thursday night on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and two counts of felony driving under the influence, Cmdr. Bertini said.

The San Mateo County Coroner's Office identified the man and woman who were struck and killed as Balbir Singh, 50, and Kamal Singh, 45, both residents of Menlo Park.

The victims were walking their dog in the bike lane eastbound on Chilco Street, west of Constitution Drive, at around 6:50 p.m. when they were struck from behind and killed by a suspected drunken driver, Menlo Park police Cmdr. Dave Bertini said.

Police were called at 6:54 p.m. and when they arrived minutes later, found the man and woman lying in the eastbound lanes of Chilco Street. Menlo Park Fire Protection District personnel arrived and pronounced the two dead at the scene.

An injured dog was found near the couple and was turned over to the Peninsula Humane Society for treatment.

Officers found a vehicle, a 1998 four-door Honda Accord, that had crashed into a tree on the opposite side of Chilco Street from where the man and woman were found. Inside the vehicle was a woman driver, the lone occupant, who complained of pain, police said. Officers said they detected signs from the driver of alcohol intoxication. She was taken to Stanford Medical Center for treatment of her injuries.

Preliminary investigation showed the man and a woman had been walking their dog eastbound on Chilco Street, west of Constitution Avenue, in the bike lane. (There are no sidewalks in that area but there is an "unimproved dirt path" on the side of Chilco where the couple was walking, police said. There are streetlights in that area.) The Honda was driving east on Chilco Street and struck the two pedestrians from behind, police said.

The Honda then continued east, driving over the center medium, and into the westbound lane of Chilco Street, police said. The Honda then struck another vehicle that was traveling west on Chilco, causing minor damage and no injury to the four occupants, police said.

The Honda then continued east in the westbound lane of Chilco, striking a tree and coming to rest.

Officers went to the Stanford Medical Center and investigation showed the driver was under the influence of alcohol and she was arrested, Cmdr. Bertini said. When she is cleared for incarceration by Stanford Medical Center, she will be taken to the San Mateo County jail and booked, he said.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he expects to receive the case from police on Monday.

Scott Delucchi of the Peninsula Humane Society said Friday that the dog, a Chihuahua or Chihuahua mix, suffered head trauma and is listed in stable condition and is currently unable to walk. A PHS officer drove the dog to the North Peninsula Emergency Veterinary Clinic in San Mateo on Thursday night.

'He loved his family'

Mr. Singh has worked in materials handling since 2007, when he was hired at AngioScore, a maker of medical devices with headquarters and about 100 employees in Fremont.

AngioScore human resources representative Lucy Gopinath talked about Mr. Singh. "He was a really nice guy, very hard working and friendly," she said. "Ours is a small company, so we all knew each other. We're collecting funds for his kids. ... We all observed a moment of silence for him."

Asked about his life outside work, Ms. Gopinath replied: "He loved his family, that much I know."

The company learned of the tragedy this morning, Ms. Gopinath said, when a couple of employees came running with the news, which the company then confirmed from Mr. Singh's family. "We've been crying all day," she said.

— Almanac staff | BCNS contributed


Like this comment
Posted by RIP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 8:38 am

Rest in peace. Drunk drivers are pure evil on wheels. Other news reports say that the victims had 3 teenage children. I hope that the perp has enough money to support them at least until they graduate from college.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please, if you are walking on streets without a sidewalk ALWAYS walk facing traffic. This accident was clearly the fault of the driver but had the couple been facing the oncoming traffic they would at least have had a chance to jump out of the way.

Like this comment
Posted by RIP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

Don't blame the victim. Many Menlo Park streets are so badly designed that pedestrians have to jaywalk (perhaps multiple times) to walk facing traffic. Why can't the city just install sidewalks like they do in civilized cities?

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am NOT blaming the victims but rather providing advice that might help prevents future incidents:

1 - Walk facing traffic
2 - Wear light colored clothing

There ARE poor and drunk drivers out there and doing whatever you can to protect yourself from them is a smart thing to do.

It is a bad bargain to be dead right.

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Posted by Belle Haven resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is right that one has to protect oneself as best one can, and RIP is right that the city should provide sidewalks where people walk. Chilco has been neglected for far too long. But sidewalks don't prevent drunk drivers from killing people. The only thing that does is for people not to drive drunk.

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Posted by Frequent walker
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I find it doubly disturbing that this accident happened at an hour when kids could be riding bikes home from school or sports activities, people biking home from work, or anyone could be out for a bit of exercise or an after-dinner stroll. This is not a 2 a.m. hit and run. There will never be any nice places to walk around here unless we have sidewalks--that means Menlo Park AND Atherton. Otherwise we all have to get in our car and drive 30 minutes to find someplace "nice and safe" for walking. It's not just drunk drivers who could hit pedestrians--its also all those texting drivers and speeding cars who leave no room for pedestrians and seem bothered by having to slow down or stop for you if you are walking on the very edge of the street facing traffic. I hope they prosecute this driver to the fullest extent the law allows.

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Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

It was mentioned on the news that this drunken driver has a rap sheet showing a prior last year.

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Posted by Tanya
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

My heart breaks for the children of the departed. As a community we must support them and let them know that they will not have to bear this burden alone. I can't say anything about the drunk driver that hasn't already been said or thought, so I'll keep the vitriol off this forum.

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Posted by Sybille
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I totally agree w/ Peter Carpenter. And may this couple rest in peace, and may the drunk driver get a hefty jail sentence. Is there any way we can support the couple's children? Both mentally and financially? Please let us know.

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Peter Carpenter is correct. My heart goes out to the family. It is time for this driver to loose her license, a long prison term and rehab for alcohol.

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Posted by Also Frequent Walker
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

RIP to the loving couple and so sorry for the family and loved ones left behind. I too agree with Mr. Carpenter, it is only prudent for all the reasons mention above to take simple precautions to protect themselves. Visible clothing, face traffic, carry a flashlight - do what I can. But a small curb will do little to fend off a speeding car with a drunk behind the wheel.

As for Menlo Park AND Atherton funding sidewalks in these beautifully rural towns, let's add Woodside and Portola Valley to the list too! I would love to go and walk in those towns too and I would sure feel a little bit safer if they redesigned the streets to accommodate sidewalks the most basic of urban amenities - Sidewalks! The houses are beautiful and it's a shame more people can't enjoy them... Thank you, AFW

Like this comment
Posted by Devil’s advocate
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 25, 2013 at 10:45 pm

My heart goes out to the family, it is a big tragedy to say the least.
I know the person that killed the couple, and I know the couple that got killed.

No one should EVER drink and drive. I also know that driver is suffering more than anyone knows. How can you live with yourself when you take the lives of innocent people. She has a daughter and granddaughter.

My heart goes out to her as well as the family that lost their parents. Those 3 children (teenagers) lost both parents and no words will bring them back.

We never know what makes a person drink and drive, text and drive etc... what we know is that 2 lives was taking, and families were destroyed.

Lets not point fingers but get down on our knees and lift everyone involved up in prayer.

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Posted by Devil’s advocate
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 25, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Just to reintegrate, it is against the law to walk, or ride your bikes toward on coming traffic, you will get cited in Menlo Park for that violation.

I agree with some of the posting, that back rode is not a safe place to walk, and the lighting is poor, and you are correct, there is no sidewalks, but even if there was, who to say the outcome would have been different.
Let pray, pray, and pray.

Hopefully this event will cause the City of Menlo Park to take preventative measure. It is clearing a difference in East Menlo Park, and South Menlo Park when it comes to safety and up keep.

Why is that?

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Posted by morning walker
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 26, 2013 at 7:30 am

since when has become a law that pedistrians must walk w/ traffic? I have always been taught - for many many years, u when walking to walk against the traffic!! I would never walk w/ the traffic

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 26, 2013 at 11:13 am

Not sure if this is official, but this is from a CA DMV publication:

"When walking on the side of the roadway, you should use the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, you may walk on the roadway, but must face oncoming traffic and as far to your left as possible."

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 26, 2013 at 11:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

According to California Vehicle Code Section 21956, “(a) No pedestrian may walk upon any roadway outside of a business or residence district otherwise than close to his or her left-hand edge of the roadway; and (b) A pedestrian may walk close to his or her right-hand edge of the roadway if a crosswalk or other means of safely crossing the roadway is not available or if existing traffic or other conditions would compromise the safety of a pedestrian attempting to cross the road.

Meanwhile section 21966 provides that “No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility.”

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Posted by Eliza
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm

How long and vast has the problem of drinking and driving been a problem, here and nationwide? Why aren't people writing their lawmakers, federal, state and local to change the laws? To me, if someone is a first time abuser of alcohol and drives, they lose their license for 1 year. If repeated, they lose the car for 2 years. I think even these are too limiting. And I would guess that this is a political football, with lobbying ability of alcoholic and their supporting businesses, to the detriment of innocent victims. This should not be tolerated.
And I'd like to see discussions and information about what to do, put on front pages, not as 'incidental reporting' when a tragedy as this occurs. This is a big deal!
It's terrible for family and friends and to not do something means that the responsibility for another death or injury will be on each of us. Try living with that.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Eliza -

While any traffic fatality is a tragedy for the victim's friends and family, it's ironic that people on this site have recently railed against elderly drivers who account for an incredibly tiny percentage of accidents and fatalities (and I'm not excusing them).

But these same people are tone deaf when it comes to drunk drivers, texting drivers, unlicensed drivers, speeding drivers, etc. who maim and kill scores of innocent people every day. Every day.

I hope the woman responsible for these two deaths receives the maximum punishment. But I won't be the least surprised if she ends up serving a short sentence, is released and does it again.

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Right on target Pogo.

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Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

What if we just started talking about how to make that turn safer? That turn is precarious. I've ridden it on my bike and I don't like it. It happens to be a main corrider for Belle Haven access to the Bayfront trail and Bedwell Bayfront park. I often drive to the park because that stretch of roadway is so unpleasant to walk. The craziest thing of all is there is pleeennnty of space in which to put a walking path along that roadway, but the space is encumbered with pointless shrubbery and piles of train rocks. I see people walking and that roadway every day. This was such a preventable tragedy on many fronts. Lets talk about one we can change.

Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 29, 2013 at 11:35 am

Dear Country Almanac,

Will you please let the community know if there is a fund set up to help the children?

Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Drive Unimpaired
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I am so very sorry for these victims and their families. It's a terrible tragedy. I will add too, that for all the (understandable) railing against "drunk driving", our society puts out VERY mixed messages about this topic. I am someone who will not drive even after a couple of sips, because real or imagined, I am such a lightweight I "feel it" right away. Yet countless times, and presumably more in the future, people will say such things as, "oh you can have one drink and drive." Or "you'll be ok if you have just one." How dare anyone do that??? And yet it happens very often. There's no danger I'll ever give in, because I just won't. And because I much prefer driving (and dancing & all kinds of things) over drinking. But I can't be the only one in the world who people try to pressure to drink & drive. Please think about that the next time someone tells you they don't want a drink. Or when they say, as I do, "no thanks - I'm driving." Again, condolences to the families & friends of all involved.

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