Marin jury convicts driver of fatal hit and run
A Marin County jury convicted a driver who struck and killed a motorcyclist on the 101 freeway and then attempted to cover up the crime.
Frank Anthony Barone Jr., 34, was found guilty of one count of hit and run and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Barone faces a prison term of up to four years and eight months, said Assistant District Attorney Andrea Buccine, the trial prosecutor.
Barone, who had been released on bail pending trial, was taken to the county jail after Monday afternoon’s verdict. Sentencing is set for June 23 before Judge Geoffrey Howard.
“While this is a victory for Mary and for justice, it is a bittersweet victory,” said Connie Siegenthaler, mother of motorcyclist Marie Noelle Siegenthaler. “It won’t bring Marie home and we miss her every day. I would like to thank the CHP and the Office of the Prosecutor for their tireless pursuit of evidence and the hours of work they have put into preparing for the trial. It is also their victory.
Barone’s defense attorney, Charles Dresow, declined to comment before sentencing.
The crime happened around 10:10 p.m. on March 26, 2018, in the southbound lanes near East Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley. Siegenthaler, 29, was returning home to San Francisco after visiting family in Fairfax.
Authorities said Barone hit Siegenthaler from behind with his Chevrolet Tahoe and drove off. Siegenthaler fell on the road and was hit by a second vehicle, the driver of which stopped to wait for the police.
The California Highway Patrol investigated the matter and obtained vehicle debris from the collision site. Police found the damaged vehicle in June after receiving confidential information, prosecutors said. It was at an auto repair shop in Petaluma that is owned by Barone’s uncle.
A CHP officer interviewed Barone, who admitted to being in South Marin the night of the collision but denied involvement. He said he took the vehicle to his uncle’s shop for unrelated repairs.
The uncle’s former girlfriend told police the uncle met with Barone in Sausalito the night of the collision to hide some of the damage and return the vehicle to the Petaluma store, according to a prosecution filing.
The former girlfriend also told police she heard Barone yelling at the uncle ‘for not putting the Tahoe inside the store so it couldn’t be seen,’ the filing says. .
“Before the defendant was identified as the driver of the vehicle, he boasted of covering up the crime,” he said.
The CHP also performed an analysis of Barone’s cellphone recordings and determined that he had been texting around the time of the collision.
The district attorney’s office filed the complaint in April 2019 after further investigation. The CHP arrested him in Moorpark, Ventura County, where he lived.
The initial charges included one count of vehicular manslaughter which the prosecution later dropped.
“We dismissed it because it was a misdemeanor and decided to prosecute on the counts only because we believed the conduct warranted a prison sentence if convicted,” Buccine said.
The trial was postponed to this year due to the backlog of cases resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barone also faces a civil lawsuit brought by Siegenthaler’s family. Barone’s uncle, Rich Gustafson, is named as a co-defendant along with other members of Barone’s family.
Gustafson did not return a call seeking comment on Wednesday. His attorney was unavailable.
Gustafson has not been charged in connection with the criminal investigation.
“We will not comment on this matter,” District Attorney Lori Frugoli said.
The Siegenthaler family created a nonprofit in the victim’s honor to provide scholarships for students at the College of Marin and California State University, Monterey Bay. Siegenthaler, a graduate of the former Sir Francis Drake High School, was accepted into the state university’s science illustration program, but died before learning she had been accepted.
The association’s website is tentaclesandwings.org.