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Former deputy takes plea deal in crash that killed Oildale woman


Nancy Garrett in an undated photo. 

A former Kern County sheriff's deputy accepted a plea agreement on Tuesday in connection with a crash that killed an Oildale woman 2 1/2 years ago.

Nicholas Clerico must pay fines and serve 240 hours of community service after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter, said his attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey.

He will not serve time in jail.

Humphrey noted the deputy was responding to another deputy's call for assistance with a fight at the Long Branch Saloon in Oildale when the crash occurred. 

"Nobody wanted any of these outcomes," the attorney said. 

An investigation by the California Highway Patrol found Clerico at fault in the Sept. 28, 2014, crash because he ran a red light while traveling 85 mph on North Chester Avenue as it intersected with West China Grade Loop. His vehicle's lights and siren were activated, but the speed at which he was driving minimized their effectiveness, the CHP's report said.

"A reasonable person would have known that entering an intersection against a red traffic signal, at 85 mph, and without giving adequate warning to approaching traffic would create a danger to human life," the report states.

Nancy Joyce Garrett was traveling east on West China Grade Loop at 43 mph when Clerico's patrol vehicle struck her on the driver's side. Investigators said Garrett had a yellow light as she entered the intersection.

She died from multiple blunt force injuries. Clerico, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered moderate injuries in the 1:45 a.m. crash.

Humphrey said Clerico is no longer with the Sheriff's Office, and he's not sure his client could have continued working as a deputy due to the injuries he suffered. Clerico was 25 at the time. 

Garrett's family is suing the county, seeking monetary damages and changes within the sheriff's department in how deputies are trained to drive the streets of Oildale and other communities in the county.

The family is represented by attorneys at Chain Cohn Stiles, and a trial is set for March 20, 2018. 

"In talking with the family, they're glad that (Clerico) has finally accepted some responsibility for what he did," attorney Matthew C. Clark said. 

He said the family, however, has not received closure, and continues to mourn Garrett's loss. 

"This was no accident," Clark said. "This was totally preventable."

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