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Police documents reveal new details in fatal hit-and-run

Steven Heath appears with his attorney Stephen Gallenson, left, at the Sonoma County Courthouse in Santa Rosa on March 6, 2013.

SCOTT MANCHESTER/ PD
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 6:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 6:43 p.m.

Witnesses described a white car driving erratically on Santa Rosa's Montgomery Drive about the time a local real estate agent admitted plowing into a pedestrian and driving away without stopping, according to search warrant documents released Friday.

Michael Black, a 64-year-old political science professor from Pacifica, was killed in the Feb. 27 crash. Steven Harry Heath, 60, told police that he was the driver. Heath, who is free on bail, is charged with vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. His next hearing is Thursday.

In search warrant affidavits filed by Santa Rosa police officers, one witness said she was driving westbound on Montgomery Drive when a white car approached in the opposite direction with its right wheels over the fog line.

She also saw a pedestrian, later identified as Black, walking on the south shoulder. She heard the collision after she passed both and looked back to see Black lying on the ground.

Another witness who was also driving westbound at the time reported seeing a white or cream-colored Mercedes driving off the road, creating a large dust cloud behind it. The driver made a series of over-corrections, causing the car to swerve in the oncoming lane, the witness said.

He said he had to slow down to avoid a crash.

The driver then regained control and accelerated “full-throttle,” east on Montgomery Drive, he said.

Yet another witness told police she saw a Mercedes make a right turn onto Channel Drive from Montgomery at a high speed. The location was about a half-mile from Heath's Pepperwood Road home.

The witness statements supported a search warrant for Heath's car and home. Officers collected hairs from a dent on the passenger side of his car as well as DNA samples.

They also took a colored piece of fabric from the right front hood area, a pair of DG sunglasses from a cup holder inside and a receipt from MD Liquor and Food dated Feb. 25 from the center console.

It is still not clear why Heath fled the scene in his Mercedes-Benz s550 luxury sedan. He surrendered more than a day after the crash and has declined to offer an explanation for why he left.

His attorney, Stephen Gallenson, said this week that his client notified him of his involvement the next morning after reading a newspaper story about the crash.

He wouldn't say if Heath claimed to be unaware that he hit someone at the time or why he didn't stop.

Gallenson summoned police to his Mendocino Avenue office March 1. Heath was there. He admitted his role, identified his car and said it was in his garage but provided no additional details.

His lawyer allowed him to answer just one question, according to the documents released Friday.

“Officer Adams asked Heath if he was the driver in that collision and he said yes,” Officer Matthew Sanchez wrote.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com

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