DA: Adults off the hook

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By MIKE MORRIS

Adults who bought beer for a 17-year-old's birthday party in Murphys the night of a nearby accident that left one teen dead will not face charges.

Calaveras County District Attorney Jeff Tuttle said there's simply not enough evidence to prove driver Zachary Airola, 18, and George Langston, 19, consumed alcohol at the Murphys party before crashing their pickup into an oak tree on Highway 4 near Vallecito, killing Langston.

"There's popular belief that those kids were drinking there," Tuttle said. "There is no evidence whatsoever that they ever drank at the party."

But the DA has filed charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and drunken driving causing injury against Airola, of Angels Camp.

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Rich Manders said a detention hearing has been set for Airola, but the date is confidential because Airola was 17 when the Aug. 5 wreck occurred and will be tried as a juvenile.

An investigation showed that Airola and Langston showed up uninvited, intoxicated and possibly with their own alcohol at the Murphys party and were asked to leave, Tuttle said.

Airola's blood-alcohol level the night of the crash was .18, more than twice the legal adult limit.

A Calaveras County sheriff's deputy was called to a party on Pennsylvania Gulch Road that night. The party's hostess, a 29-year-old woman, admitted she bought a keg of beer and allowed minors to drink at her home, according to a sheriff's press release.

Airola and Langston left the party after the deputy left to respond to an emergency call in Arnold.

The District Attorney's Office was asked to review a possible complaint of contributing to the delinquency of minors against the adult party hosts after the sheriff's department concluded its investigation of the wreck.

Tuttle reviewed the case for about a week, but was unable to prove the pair drank at the party. The sheriff's report filed was based on accounts from those at the party, Capt. Mike Walker said.

"If we could get them drinking one beer," Tuttle said of Airola and Langston, "we'd charge the adults."

11509340
The Union Democrat
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