Trial date set in bicyclist's death

Melvin J. Bohleen pleaded innocent to vehicular homicide in connection with Sara S. Eustis's death in May.

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WALLA WALLA -- A motorist who struck and fatally injured a bicyclist on Middle Waitsburg Road in May pleaded innocent Monday afternoon to a criminal charge of vehicular homicide.

Melvin J. Bohleen, 73, of 300 Cherry St., Dayton, is scheduled for trial Dec. 6 and 7 in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Bohleen is accused of driving with disregard for the safety of others when the wreck occurred between Valley Grove and Chase roads, about four miles north of Walla Walla.

Officials said he was heading south on Middle Waitsburg in a 2000 Jeep Cherokee about 10:30 a.m. May 21 when he drove up behind Sara S. Eustis and her sister-in-law, Teresa A. Wolber, who was a companion bicyclist.

The Cherokee struck Eustis, 61, of Seattle, who died after being taken to a local hospital. She had been in the Walla Walla area to celebrate her nephew's graduation from Whitman College.

Bohleen later told authorities he didn't see Eustis riding the bicycle.

Investigators saw no signs that Bohleen was impaired and there's no evidence he tried to avoid the collision, according to a Sheriff's Office report filed in court.

The roadway heading south in that area is straight with an uphill grade. The sheriff's report says, "visibility is good to the crest of the hill."

If convicted as charged, Bohleen would face a standard-range prison term of 15 to 20 months.

He has not been arrested pending the outcome of the case. However, he is not permitted to drive, according to a condition of his pre-trial release.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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