A 27-year-old Placentia man was arrested Tuesday in connection with the death of community activist Feb. 13 while trying to rescue a dog that had been running in traffic.
Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies arrested Adam Hall in a phone booth at a Walgreens in Yorba Linda about 3:30 in the afternoon, according to sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.
The good Samaritan's death made national news and earned a nod from which presented her husband, John, daughter Hannah and son Jonathan with a posthumous certificate in her name called The Compassionate Action Award.
Hall, who had two prior convictions for driving under the influence, has been charged with murder in the drug-induced crash, the Orange County District Attorney's office said. (After his second conviction, authorities warned Hall he could face a murder rap if he killed someone while driving under the influence.)
He was also charged with one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury, and is being held on $1-million bail. If convicted, Hall faces a maximum 21 years to life in state prison.
On the day of the accident, according to authorities, Hall had a virtual pharmacy of drugs coursing through his veins. Driving north on Moulton Parkway in a Ford sport utility vehicle, he allegedly sailed through a red light at Nueva Vista Drive and rammed a Toyota SUV passing legally through the intersection.
The force of the crash caused both vehicles to lose control. The Toyota spun 360 degrees before coming to a stop. The occupants, Steven James and Anna Gaffney, were both injured in the crash. Gaffney suffered a fractured collar bone and James suffered severe bruising.
Hall's vehicle allegedly jumped a curb and rolled onto the sidewalk, where he crashed into Steves, 48. At the time of the wreck, Hall was allegedly under the influence of methamphetamine, morphine, Diazepam, Nordiazepam, Alprazolam, Hydroxyalprazolam, Oxazepam, Temazepam, amphetamine and 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (a cannabis byproduct).
He was also on probation for two driving-under-the-influence convictions. In March 2008, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence of drugs for an October 2007 incident. He was sentenced to three years of informal probation and ordered to complete a three-month first-offender alcohol program and Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel.
Less than two months after being sentenced in that case, Hall was again arrested for driving under the influence in May 2008. Hall pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, five years of informal probation, and was ordered to complete a 180-day drug and alcohol program and an 18-month multiple offender alcohol program.
"It's a shame, if this is true, that one person's bad choices can bring so much pain to a family and to our community," said Jeanette Krembas, who serves on the city's Traffic Commission and heard testimony from residents following Steves' death.
Woman Behind the Smile
Until Tuesday, authorities have said only that the incidentOn any given week, at least three readers have written to Laguna Niguel Patch asking what the delay has been.
Steves was kneeling on the sidewalk, corralling a dog, when the two SUVs crashed and Hall allegedly hit her, officials reported.
Since Steves' death, the has looked into residents' concerns about the intersection, but maintained it was safe. the city's traffic engineer said no changes were needed.
The Traffic Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council increase traffic enforcement in the area and add radar trailers "as time, equipment and personnel permits." The commission also suggested a review of overall traffic conditions on Moulton Parkway, including visibility as motorists turn right onto the street from Nueva Vista when they have a red light.
, asking for some kind of action: "We moved our family here when our kids were babies because it was a safe neighborhood," he said. "They are 14 and 15 years old now, and they don't have a mother."
Traffic Commissioner Jay Greenwood said, "I knew Mara Steves and have friends who were very close to her. A young lady on my club soccer team is Hannah Steves' best friend. This was a tragic accident and it has impacted many lives in our community. We are all saddened by the loss."
For weeks after the accident, to the Rancho Niguel tract in memory of Mara. This was the same spot where the subdivision’s iron letters were torn off the wall from the impact of one of the SUVs.
Months later, the letters have been replaced, the wall painted and repaired, and the decorations are gone. There’s also ” standing tall and proud after being planted by Orange County Fire Authority crews from Station No. 39 in Laguna Niguel. The 6-foot Chinese orchid tree was placed near the site where Steves lost her life. For those who live in the vicinity, it will always be the place where their good friend died.
The Memories Are Still Fresh
Although Mara is gone, memories linger.
Friends Elizabeth von Gremp and where Mara spent much of her time, as well as others in the close-knit Rancho Niguel community still swap stories about her. They talk about her infectious laugh and fun, full-of-life personality.
A popular community member, Steves was a past PTA president, animal lover and frequent shopper at the where the staff knew the native New Yorker by her first name.
have been held in her honor, and a at Bergeson Elementary School by her good friends Tori DeGroote and von Gremp, who put on their gardening clothes and hit the dirt in April to make it happen.
This past weekend, longtime friend held another fundrasiser in Huntington Beach to help Mara's family.
"I miss her every day," Gilmore said days before the event. "We've heard it before -- 'She was someone that lit up a room' -- but she really did."
Friends and family are not the only ones who feel the hole she left behind. People who never knew her or spoke a single word to her say they feel the same sense of loss as those close to her.
"I can't think of anything more sad than to find out that drugs were part of the cause of cutting Mara's life short," Scholl said. "This 27 year old...his life is ruined; Mara's life is ruined; her children and husband's lives are changed forever. Very, very sad."