A 44-year-old man was convicted Thursday of gross vehicular manslaughter for a reckless driving collision in a stolen car that killed a motorcyclist in Modjeska Canyon.

Damon Ellery Block was also convicted of reckless driving with a specific injury, hit-and-run causing death and car theft, all felonies. Jurors, who deliberated for about a half day, also found true sentencing enhancements for fleeing the scene of the vehicular manslaughter.

Block is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 25.

Block was convicted of killing 55-year-old Drew Ketter of Midway City and injuring his wife, Joanne, who sustained multiple broken bones in the collision.

Block stole a 1994 Honda Accord — the windows were rolled down and the key was inside — from a tow yard at 124 N. Sullivan St. just before noon on Aug. 1, 2016, Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue said.

Later that day, he was driving on a bike lane before veering onto the shoulder of southbound Santiago Canyon Road, when he began swerving toward oncoming traffic, Orue said.

The car collided with the motorcycle near Falcon Street as the Ketters left Cook’s Corner, a popular restaurant for bikers, Orue said. The Honda ended going up an embankment and Block ran away from the crash scene, the prosecutor said.

Police found numerous items in the car, such as a Lipton Brisk iced tea bottle, sunglasses, Marlboro cigarettes, a jar of olives and a bottle of Evian water, Orue said. Criminalists were able to lift Block’s fingerprint from the tea bottle and found his DNA on the other items, he said.

They also found the defendant’s cell phone in the car, according to the prosecutor.

Block’s attorney, Michele Bell, conceded her client stole the car, but she said the only item with no other DNA on it was the iced tea bottle. All the other items had DNA from others, she said, arguing that someone else was behind the wheel at the time of the collision.

Investigators could not work up an identification of the DNA on the car’s steering wheel and gear shift, Bell said.

The attorney accused Orange County sheriff’s deputies of a “rush to judgment… They had a suspect and they went with it.”

Bell also said some evidence such as 911 calls and initial police reports were destroyed in the case, and accused deputies of failing to interview some witnesses.

Two hikers in the area told a sheriff’s deputy they saw someone wearing black near the crash scene and handed him a discarded water bottle, Bell said. Another witness responded to the crash as a good Samaritan, she added.

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