The picture of Gayla Sue Price printed on T-shirts worn by her family members in Kern County Superior Court evoked a memory far different than the indignant and somber atmosphere at Monday’s arraignment of the man charged in her death.
Price, 66, aimed her carefree smile over her shoulder while spinning away in those swinging chairs at the Kern County Fair. A photographer caught her blond hair streaked with pink ruffling in the calm afternoon breeze.
More than a dozen of Price’s family members arrived at Monday’s arraignment to watch a defense attorney enter not-guilty pleas for an 18-year-old man accused of murder and gross vehicular manslaughter in connection to the April 18 collision that killed Price.
“It is unfortunate that a person so young in age can now … can cause so much damage based on the allegations here,” Court Commissioner Roger H. Ponce Jr. said.
Police claimed Karim Reyad was driving more than 100 mph 1.1 seconds before the collision, killing Price while he was intoxicated with THC in the 10800 block of Campus Park Drive, according to a probable cause declaration filed in Kern County Superior Court. Reyad crossed into traffic lanes of cars headed in the opposite direction and hit Price, the reports filed in court added.
Deputy District Attorney Tara Deal said in court the April 18 incident isn’t Reyad’s first brush with law enforcement in regard to reckless driving.
“He’s had numerous warnings for his conduct, for his reckless driving, for his speed,” Deal said.
When Reyad was 17, he lost his arm in a collision he caused, she said.
Reyad, who appeared in a wheelchair, began interjecting as Deal spoke in court and said the collision wasn’t his fault. His interruptions prompted Ponce to say it’s in Reyad’s best interest to keep quiet during these proceedings and let his attorney argue his cause.
The week leading up to the deadly April 18 crash, Reyad accrued more interactions with law enforcement, she added. It started with police warning Reyad that reckless driving is dangerous, Deal said.
Prosecutors also filed a misdemeanor charge of recklessly driving from two incidents, each falling on or about April 13 and 14, according to the complaint.
And then in a separate incident on April 15, Reyad was found driving high on THC and was cited with a DUI, Deal said. The measurements of THC in Reyad’s blood exceeded capabilities of a lab machine calibrating such concentrations, she added.
Three days later, police said, Reyad was involved in the April 18 collision that killed Price. He faces five felonies stemming from this incident: second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of a drug and causing bodily injury, reckless driving and driving the wrong way on a road that causes an injury or death.
Reyad’s defense attorney, Forrest Miller, noted in court his client just graduated high school a semester early with a 4.2 GPA. He’s also not a danger to society because he cannot walk and needs help to use the bathroom after getting injured, Miller said.
“He is remorseful at this point,” Miller noted.
Deal noted there was a video taken of Reyad’s dashboard before the fatal collision which showed the 100-mph speed. Police said previously Campus Park Drive, where the deadly incident happened, has a 50 mph speed limit.
In fact, the video shows Reyad’s friend asking him to slow down before the crash because the passenger was afraid, Deal said. Two passengers were injured in the collision, each either suffering from broken bones or a concussion.
“He is an extreme danger to the community,” Deal said.
Ponce held Reyad with no bail and noted Miller could file a motion seeking to argue against this decision. A pre-preliminary hearing was set for June 5.
The court commissioner also noted his decision to hold Reyad without bail comes from the repeated allegations of reckless driving cited by the prosecutor.
“Unfortunately, this defendant just doesn’t get it,” he said.
Price’s family spoke earlier this month at a news conference remembering their loved one.
"I ain't going to have a mom to call no more."
It was a simple cry of loss and grief from Elve Willis, who sat next to his sister, Crystal Neilson, as the two grown children of Price spoke about losing their mother in one horrific, metal-crushing, heartbreaking moment.
Price, who was called Nana by her 10 grandchildren, was returning home after shopping for groceries. Three minutes from safety, Price was stopped in the center turn lane in the 10800 block of Campus Park Drive.
On the night of the violent crash, Bakersfield police said speed was definitely a factor.
The woman who was both mother and grandmother died at the scene after the force of the impact pushed her car more than 300 feet from where it was struck, said Matthew Clark, of Chain Cohn Clark.
Price’s family has retained the law firm.
"This is happening far too often," Clark said of such crashes. "People need to remember 'Fast & Furious' is just a movie."
The crash occurred at about 5:44 p.m., Clark said. They know this, he added, because a portion of the crash was caught by a Ring security camera in the neighborhood.
A few seconds of the driver’s actions also were caught on video by a passenger inside the speeding car. The video was posted briefly on social media, and is currently visible on the law firm's Facebook page.
Beware, however. Both young men use profanity during the 19-second clip.
Early on, it appears the driver, referring to an apparently disapproving driver nearby, says, "What you looking at fat (expletive)." Then immediately he guns the powerful engine, and the car's speed increases tremendously, the engine roaring as the passenger yells more profanities.
At one point, the driver takes his right hand off the steering wheel. And while it's not visible in the video, Chain Cohn Clark confirmed that Reyad has only his right arm. He has no left arm.
The video inside the car cuts off before impact.
"Too many drivers are using our public roads as a private racetrack, leading to tragic results," Clark said. "Now we have another innocent family who has been victimized by a negligent, reckless driver in our community.
"Despite recent legislation to address street racing and sideshows, these activities continue to plague our community," he said.
For Crystal Neilson and her brother, the full depth of the loss is impossible to express.
"She was the mother that was involved in everything we did," Neilson said. "She was a part of every birthday party, every sporting event.
"She loved her family and we love her," Neilson said.
"She was beautiful, the kind of woman who doesn't know how beautiful she is."