Jury to decide fate of mom accused of multiple deaths; Humboldt’s last week of news

Episode sponsored by Bongo Boy Studio and Jitter Bean Coffee Co.

In the latest episode of Humboldt Last Week (10:04): After preliminary hearings last week a judge ruled to let a jury decide if a mom is guilty of drunk driving and killing her own teenage daughter as well as her daughter’s teenage friend. 39-year-old Marci Kitchen has plead not guilty to all charges and allegations. Last summer the 14-year old victims, Kiya Kitchen and Faith Tsarnas, were skateboarding on a rural road just south of Fortuna city limits when they were struck and tragically killed by a vehicle.

“(Faith) was a very intelligent, thoughtful, and caring,” said someone close to her wishing to remain anonymous. “She loved sports and she was good at everything she did… She was a little bit mischievous but in a good way, a funny way. She was always smiling. Happy to be alive… Her mother is a culinary graduate, and Faith always helped her (make food).”

“(Kiya) was a beautiful soul full of life and love that loved the outdoors and everything that it had to offer,” reads her obituary. “From riding motorcycles to hunting and fishing and riding long boards with her brother and friends… Kiya was an amazing artist that loved to paint and draw. She had an amazing voice that only few were lucky enough to hear.”

Reiterating info made available to the public last summer, CHP spokesperson Cy May said Kiya and Faith were struck by what they believe was Marci’s Jeep and that the vehicle fled the scene. Faith died at the scene and Kiya died that next morning at the hospital in Oakland. May says the Jeep that allegedly killed the girls was found at Marci’s house the next day.

“...This is an unbelievably tragic incident and it’s unfortunate that two young lives were lost,” May said. “In the wake of the aftermath the community is going to be shaken for a very long time.”

Nine days after the incident CHP asked the public for help locating Marci and her boyfriend as “persons of interest,” saying they made several failed attempts to contact them for questioning. Marci’s lawyers took issue with that saying Marci immediately opened lines of communication with law enforcement, made her Jeep available, and was prepared to surrender upon request. It’s not known if Marci was only available for arrest, but not available for interviews. She surrendered months later after the investigation was concluded and an arrest warrant for her was issued. She was released a little over an hour after she was booked and posted bail.

Lost Coast Outpost reporter Rhonda Parker covered the preliminary hearings last week, which were pushed back multiple times from the original date in late November. One of the most memorable moments from the hearings came from Marci’s son Jevin, who said when she returned home in her wrecked Jeep her passenger said they had hit two girls and he could “easily” tell she she was drunk. Her son also noted that he refused to crash her Jeep into a basketball hoop to make it seem like that was the cause of front-end damage. The prosecution argued the girls would not have been killed had Marci not been drunk and speeding. Marci’s lawyers have maintained that from the beginning she made it clear to all involved that she initially thought she had hit a deer, these girls didn't have enough room to skateboard on the side of the road, and they noted the girls -- who had THC in their systems -- were partially at fault for being in the middle of the road. It’s disputed how much Marci had to drink that night, how fast she was driving, and what was said in the aftermath of the incident. A judge ruled there was enough evidence to go to trial and soon a jury will decide if the charges can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Parker stressed that less evidence is required for a trial than a conviction.

Some have had a hard time understanding why Marci’s preliminary hearings were pushed back so many times and have criticised her use of free plane tickets to travel to Mexico and Colombia in recent months. She eventually had to surrender her passport to the court.

LA-based psychiatrist Dr. Judy Ho -- known for recurring appearances on “Crime Watch Daily” and “Dr. Drew” among other national news shows -- delved into Marci’s case a bit and said she hopes those impacted by the events prioritize their mental health. She spoke about how average people dealing with trauma experience and show grief. With the disclaimer that she hasn’t evaluated Marci as a patient, the Ph. D. wondered if some of her alleged behavior is indicative of antisocial personality disorder.

“I just wonder if she might fit that type of profile,” she said. “Somebody who just doesn't really have a ton of remorse -- isn't all that connected to human emotionality -- and that's the kind of person that would be okay with taking trips afterwards and pretending like nothing happened.”

While the court process continues Marci is dealing with the loss of her child and the loss of her child’s friend. She does have friends continuing to show support for her. Camille Riggs has been friends with Marcy since their freshman year of high school. She said she knows Marci has a good heart and is a good person. That she always wanted to be a mother and she’s someone who cares enough to remember to ask you about specific details of your life. Someone who even left jobs so she could spend more time with her family. Early on in their friendship Camille says Marci suffered a trauma that solidified their friendship.

“When (Marci) was 16 her sister was killed in a car accident -- it was a really tough time for her and her family,” Riggs said. “...She’s devastated by this horrible accident and it’s changed everyone involved forever. She’s so sorry the pain caused to all the family members and it’s been extraordinarily hard for her to be restricted by the legal process and to not be able to talk about that evening at all or reach out to Faith’s family to apologize. This absolutely changed her and it’s devastating.”

Again, Kitchen has plead not guilty to vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence causing death. She has denied fleeing the scene causing harm to multiple victims. Her next court date is May 25.

The much more in-depth story begins in the podcast at 10:04.

Also covered: Other top stories from last week.

Marci's booking photo, Kiya, Faith, and a Facebook photo of Marci