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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Man Sentenced for 2018 Crash Resulting in Death of UC Davis Biologist

Santa Rosa, CA  –  March 9, 2020  –  Defendant Javier Rodriguez-Lopez, 21 years old of Pittsburg, CA, was sentenced earlier today by Sonoma County Court Commissioner Troye Shaffer to serve one month in jail and spend three years on probation after having pled no contest in February to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and misdemeanor driving without a license. Rodriguez-Lopez was also ordered to complete 200 hours of community service involving either marine sciences education, or by speaking to young drivers in high schools about the dangers of driving while tired and fatigued. Rodriguez-Lopez had faced a maximum punishment of 1 year in the county jail.

The charges resulted from an early morning crash in April of 2018 on Lakeville Highway and South McDowell Boulevard in Petaluma. Rodriguez-Lopez’s Chevy Silverado veered approximately 23 feet into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a vehicle occupied by noted biologist Dr. Susan Williams. Five other vehicles were also involved in the collision. Evidence showed Rodriguez-Lopez was speeding, fell asleep at the wheel, and did not have a valid driver’s license.

Between 2000 and 2010 Dr. Williams was a decorated biologist and Director of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay. She was also a distinguished professor at the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and a key advisor to California lawmakers working to protect coastal waters from oil and gas development.  During her career Dr. Williams conducted extensive research into how ocean health is connected to the wellbeing of coastal communities and the world at large.

During the sentencing hearing Commissioner Shaffer relayed to the defendant, “Our young people are often told about the dangers of drinking and driving or texting and driving, but they are often not informed that being too tired is also an appropriate reason to pull over. Given your experience which resulted in this traffic loss of life I think you are in a good position to relay that message.”

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Matt Hobson. Mario Giomi of Petaluma Police Department headed the investigation


Contact Information

Brandon Gilbert
Media Coordinator
Office of the District Attorney
County of Sonoma
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Room 212 J
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
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