Scotts Valley man killed in Highway 1 crash
by Michelle Camerlingo/ Press-Banner
Nov 06, 2009 | 1253 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Scotts Valley’s Jose Absalon Barrientos was killed on his way to a family picnic when a driver crashed head-on into his Harley-Davidson on Highway 1 last Sunday afternoon.

Barrientos, 54, was pronounced dead at Highway 1 and Scaroni Road, north of Santa Cruz on Nov. 1, according to the California Highway Patrol and the county coroner’s office.

A homeless woman from Santa Cruz, Sherri Lee Chinn, 38, was arrested at the scene and now faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. 

She pleaded not guilty to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated Wednesday morning, Nov. 4.

The Honda Odyssey van that Chinn was driving first hit Barrientos, then veered into the car driven by his wife, Sandy, 27.

The Barrientos family had recently moved to a mobile home park in Scotts Valley from San Jose, Jackson said. The couple were newly married and were taking their 7-month-old daughter to a picnic after attending church Sunday.

The infant was not hurt, but Sandy Barrientos suffered minor injuries.

Chinn has two prior convictions for driving under the influence. On Sunday, her blood-alcohol level tested at three times the legal limit at 0.24. She was not hurt in the crash.

“That’s about 12 drinks in 12 hours and is a very high (blood alcohol content) level,” CHP officer Sarah Jackson said.

Chinn’s two passengers, both seated in the front seat of the van, were also seriously injured, Jackson said. 

A 56-year-old Watsonville resident, still unnamed, was flown to San Jose Regional Medical Center and died Tuesday morning. He was the registered owner of the van, according to reports.

The other passenger in the van, a 55-year-old man from Nevada, was flown to Valley Medical Center, where he is recovering in the trauma center, according to the CHP.

A driver who witnessed the crash told the CHP that right before the crash, Chinn was driving on the wrong side of the road, going south in the northbound lanes. 

The witness swerved into the southbound lanes to avoid colliding with the van and then saw the wreck in her rearview mirror. 

“The motorcyclist couldn’t get out of the way in time,” Jackson said.

Chinn lists her address as the Homeless Service Center in Santa Cruz.

She is being held in Santa Cruz County Jail, with bail set at $100,000 after Judge Robert Atack doubled it Wednesday morning. Chinn is set to return to court Nov. 19 to set a date for a preliminary hearing. If convicted, she could be sentenced to life in prison.

The crash remains under investigation.
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