A convicted DUI offender who allegedly struck and killed a 33-year-old woman trying to help an injured dog hit by a car on a Riverside street pleaded not guilty Friday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and then fleeing a crime scene.
Mason Rodney Howard, 22, of Laguna Niguel was arrested last Saturday night after allegedly running over Kimberly Bennett of San Bernardino on Mission Inn Avenue.
Along with the manslaughter count, Howard is charged with a sentence-enhancing allegation of fleeing the scene of a crime. He was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Gunn, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for June 11 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and kept the defendant’s bail at $1 million.
Howard is being held at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to Riverside police Sgt. Ryan Taack, Bennett was out walking when she witnessed a dog hit by a car in the 4600 block of Mission Inn, near Indian Hills Road, about 7:50 p.m. Saturday. The good Samaritan was on the sidewalk but walked into eastbound lanes to try to protect the injured canine, the sergeant said.
Moments later, Howard approached the location in his Ford Ranger pickup, traveling at an unknown speed, and slammed into the woman without stopping, Taack alleged.
Witnesses called 911, and patrol officers and paramedics converged on the location. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
An alert driver in the area saw the Ford racing away after the alleged hit-and-run and followed it into downtown Riverside, at which point he contacted police, according to Taack. Howard was stopped and taken into custody without incident 45 minutes later.
According to court records, the defendant has a misdemeanor DUI conviction stemming from an offense that occurred in the Coachella Valley in 2017.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: