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Costa Mesa driver found guilty of killing nanny in 2008 road accident

Jury hands down verdict Wednesday in Martin Burt Kuehl's trial.

January 27, 2010

A Costa Mesa man is guilty of killing a local nanny from behind the wheel of his car as she was crossing a Newport Beach street in 2008.

A jury of seven men and five women Wednesday found Martin Burt Kuehl, 42, guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for fatally hitting 32-year-old Martha Ovalle in August 2008 as she crossed Westcliff Drive near Dover Drive.

Whatever it was, jurors said after delivering the verdict, something distracted Kuehl enough that from the time he made a left turn onto Westcliff to the time he hit Ovalle, he was not paying enough attention to the road. A series of text messages Kuehl sent and received in the 30 minutes leading up to the crash added to the prosecution’s case that Kuehl was showing a clear disregard for human life, adding to the claim of gross negligence, prosecutors argued.

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Jurors said text messaging did not play a role in their decision. Rather, witness testimony that Kuehl did not move on a green light and drifted across lanes and directly into Ovalle showed that he was clearly not paying attention while behind the wheel of his GMC Yukon.

Kuehl could face six years in prison for his crime, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jason Baez said after the trial Wednesday.

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