Elder claims he wasn't drunk in
Published: April 19, 2013
THE PACIFIC Grove man arrested
on suspicion of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter following
a crash that killed two women and injured a third in Pebble
Beach April 7 denies being drunk at the time of the wreck,
according to his San Francisco attorney, Paul Puri.
In the collision, which occurred around 7:30 p.m. on Sloat Road
near Bird Rock Road, Elder’s Cadillac Escalade crossed over the
center line and hit a Ford Freestyle driven by 72-year-old
Pebble Beach resident Sharon Daly head-on, killing her and her
65-year-old passenger, Linda Larone, who also lived in P.B,
according to police.
A passenger in Elder’s vehicle, 20-year-old Selvia Gattas of
Pebble Beach, was seriously injured and taken by helicopter to
Stanford hospital, while Elder was treated at Community Hospital
of the Monterey Peninsula for minor injuries and was then
arrested and booked into Monterey County Jail on charges of
felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He posted $430,000 bail
and was released.
On Monday, Puri issued a statement denying the allegations and
making Elder out to be a concerned man who took care of his
friend in the crash’s aftermath and is mourning the deaths he
“Stuart Elder took all precautions, care and concern under the
circumstances, and flatly denies he was under the influence of
alcohol at the time of the accident,” he said in the statement,
which also accused local media and police of “colluding in
sensationalist yellow journalism and debased character
assassination for their mutual profit and gain.”
He said Elder “will be vindicated in a court of law.”
But California Highway Patrol public information officer Bob
Lehman said the officers — who are highly trained in
accident investigation and determining whether a driver is under
the influence of alcohol or drugs — had cause to conclude Elder
was drunk, though he wouldn’t go into details. He also noted the
CHP is the top echelon when it comes to skills, training,
technique and information regarding DUI investigations.
“From the evidence at the scene, the officers concluded Mr.
Elder was under the influence at the time of the crash,” he
said. That evidence might have included the odor of alcohol in
the area and on his breath, his demeanor, the redness and
wateriness of his eyes, and field sobriety tests.
“Certainly, our officers found indications — sight, scent and
his demeanor — that all led to that conclusion,” he said.
A blood sample was taken at the hospital, but toxicology
results are still weeks away, according to Lehman.
“The investigation is still in its infancy and is developing,”
he said. “I know the DA does like to wait for the results before
they file the final charges, and I don’t know what sort of
information they currently have on hand.”
Because Elder is out on bail, rather than in custody at the
jail, investigators and the district attorney’s office have a
little more time before they have to file, and it could be
In a similar case involving Carmel Valley teenager Ryan
Armstrong, who was initially suspected of drunken driving in the
Jeep crash that killed his friend and seriously injured another
in Cachagua in August 2011, six months passed before the
district attorney’s office formalized its case against him. And
while evidence showed Armstrong had alcohol in his system
despite not being old enough to drink, the eventual charge did
not include the original allegation of DUI. He eventually
pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor vehicular
manslaughter and was sentenced last summer, 10 months after the
crash, to a suspended jail sentence of one year and three years’
In the Elder case, the investigation will likely be time
consuming, as officers research and interview people to
determine what he was doing in the 24 hours leading up to the
crash, where he had been drinking if he was, and any other
variables that might have contributed to the fatal collision.
While his court history includes more than a dozen traffic
citations over the years — including tickets for driving
without a license, speeding and not wearing a seat belt, and a
bench warrant issued by a judge when he failed to make a court
date — Lehman said those violations wouldn’t be a factor in
pursuing this case.
Passenger not suspected
Lehman also said police at the scene did not believe Gattas had
“Our officers did not suspect that she was intoxicated,” he said.
Although she was flown by helicopter to Stanford hospital the
night of the crash, Gattas has since been discharged and is
reportedly back home, recovering from injuries to her leg and
In his press release, Puri — whose law firm specializes in
“defense against serious accusations and restoring the
reputations of good people in their communities” — said
Elder and his friends and family “wish to express their deepest
condolences to the family and friends of these beloved members
of the Pebble Beach community.”
“The tragic losses of Ms. Daly and Ms. Larone will be
remembered and held in all our hearts and prayers,” he quoted
Elder as saying. “My life will never be the same. For the rest
of my life, I will mourn the deaths of these kind souls.” The
women were the former owners of Stone’s Pet Shop on Forest
Avenue in P.G.
Elder, 30, owns and operates Pacific Grove-based ECI Building Inc., specializing in upscale home projects.