The 20-year-old driver accused of reckless behavior including texting and speeding in the moments before a fatal April crash entered a not guilty plea, even as police records emerged that detailed multiple violations and a description from an officer that she "drives like a maniac."
Anna Marie Reynosa, free on $50,000 bail, entered the plea Monday to a charge of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in what's believed to be the first instance in Kern County where a motorist is being prosecuted in part for texting and driving resulting in death or major injury.
She was accompanied by about a dozen friends for her brief appearance in Department 11 of Kern County Superior Court. She told Judge Charles R. Brehmer she understood that the conditions of her bail require her to abstain from alcohol and that she can't drive without a license or proof of insurance.
Redacted police reports revealed Reynosa has two speeding convictions and another speeding case pending, all within the past four months. The officer who cited her in one of the instances told investigators about her poor driving.
Reynosa provided officers with wildly varying reports about what she was doing before the crash, the reports indicate. She could serve up to six years in prison if convicted.
Family and friends of the victim, Charla Wilkins, wore T-shirts in her remembrance to court. Several wept afterward and said they've been devastated by the loss.
Kelly Hinkle, Wilkins' aunt, said she's just trying to get through one day at a time. She urged motorists to pay attention to the roadway and avoid distractions.
"All the teens out there that are drinking and driving and texting, you don't need to be doing that," Hinkle said.
Shaylene Brown, a friend of Wilkins, said Wilkins always loved being out on her motorcycle and was the "most bubbly" person she knew.
"It's been very tough for everybody," Brown said.
Reynosa and her crowd of supporters walked quickly from the courtroom to a stairway as media photographed the defendant. She has previously declined an interview request from The Californian.
Reynosa gave numerous conflicting statements regarding what she was doing before her pickup slammed into the back of Wilkins' motorcycle at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road, according to police. Wilkins was stopped at a stop sign at the time.
Wilkins, 20, died at Kern Medical Center.
Reynosa told investigators she had been texting at the time of the April 14 crash, the redacted reports say. Upon hearing Wilkins had died, she changed her statement and said she hadn't been texting.
But in examining her phone, detectives found a partial text message draft to someone named "Nick" at the top of Reynosa's list of text messages, according to the reports. Officers concluded it was "extremely likely" she was texting Nick before the crash as that message was composed after a brief phone call at 8:32 p.m.
Police said the crash happened just a few minutes after the phone call. Reynosa told investigators she doesn't know anyone named Nick and doesn't know how his number got on her phone, the reports said.
Reynosa also changed what she told officers about her speed, finally saying she wasn't exactly sure what it was but that it was around the posted 45 mph speed limit, the reports say. Investigators, however, said analysis of the crash showed she was traveling at 63 to 68 mph at impact.
In addition, alcohol was detected in Reynosa's system. Although only a small amount was found, Reynosa is under the legal drinking age. The reports say she told officers she had consumed half a bottle of Corona and had planned to drink more with friends later that evening.
The pickup pushed the motorcycle 331.6 feet after the crash, the reports say. Witnesses said Reynosa did not brake before impact, and crash analysis determined the brakes weren't applied either before, during or after she hit the motorcycle.
"It is clear (Reynosa's) mindset, actions and behavior were reckless and carried out with a wanton disregard for human life," an officer wrote in the reports.
Hinkle, the aunt, struggled to contain her emotions when asked about seeing Reynosa in person.
"(Reynosa) might not be locked up now," Hinkle said, "but we'll see what happens in the end."