Girlfriend pleads not guilty in crash that killed retired court commissioner

Jacqulin Calixtro
Jacqulin Calixtro

Jacqulin Calixtro pleaded not guilty Monday morning in Merced Superior Court to charges related to the June crash that killed her boyfriend, retired Merced County court commissioner Ralph Cook.

The 68-year-old Cook died on June 8 when the Mercedes that Calixtro was driving smashed into a guardrail on southbound Highway 99 south of Franklin Road. Calixtro is charged with vehicular manslaughter and two counts of felony DUI. She appeared Monday before Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt.

Cook’s family attended the hearing, and Calixtro also was accompanied by friends and family.

Cook, a former attorney and county prosecutor, was appointed in 1991 to serve as a Superior Court commissioner, a post he held until his retirement in 2012. Calixtro, 38, worked at Costco at the time of the crash.

Police reports leave many questions unanswered about what happened prior to the fatal collision.

Calixtro was drinking after work on June 7 at Kewl Cats in Merced, according to investigators’ reports. Cook showed up about 10:30 p.m. but never entered the bar, according to witnesses. The couple argued in the parking lot, and another person who became involved in the dispute assaulted Cook, according to the witnesses. That person has not been identified.

Cook, who suffered injuries to his head in the assault, was flown by helicopter to a Modesto hospital just after midnight. Hours later, Calixtro drove to the hospital to pick him up. The crash occurred about 5 a.m. as the couple drove back to Merced.

According to the California Highway Patrol officer who responded to the crash, Calixtro’s breath smelled of alcohol and she swayed when completing field sobriety tests.

The driver of another vehicle that sustained minor damage in the crash, however, said he didn’t smell any alcohol on Calixtro. “She held my hand and was hysterical,” the driver said in the collision report.

According to a Breathalyzer exam, Calixtro’s blood alcohol content was .065 percent, which is below the legal limit of .08.

The complaint filed by the county District Attorney’s Office charges Calixtro with DUI causing injury and driving with a .08 percent blood-alcohol content causing injury.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt, who wrote the complaint, said the charges take into consideration how the human body metabolizes alcohol, burning off about .02 percent per hour.

Calixtro told officers that during her time at Kewl Cats, between 7:30 and 10:45 p.m., she consumed two Tequila Sunrises and two Creamsicles with vodka.

Details of the argument in the Kewl Cats parking lot are unclear. Merced police Detective Chris Russell said investigators are looking at surveillance footage from the bar, but no suspects have been named and the investigation is ongoing.

After the assault, Calixtro told police she wanted to accompany Cook to the hospital and attempted to drive there, according to the police report. Officers described her as “hysterical.” Because she was too intoxicated to drive, police prevented her from getting into her car. They saw her leave with a sober driver.

Calixtro later went to the hospital, arriving in Modesto about 2:30 a.m., according to statements she made to police. Cook was discharged from the hospital about 4:30 a.m., police reports show.

Calixtro told the CHP that she had wanted to drive straight home to Atwater, but Cook insisted on picking up his wallet from the Merced Police Department.

“He wouldn’t listen to me,” she said, according to the report by CHP Officer Angel Fuentes. “I wanted to go home to Atwater, but he had to have his wallet.”

Calixtro is due back in court on Nov. 7 for a preliminary hearing, where she will be represented by the Merced County Public Defender’s Office.

Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477