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Update: Arraignment for Driver in Crash that Killed Cyclist Continued

Authorities say Michael Jason Lopez caused the fatal crash that took the life of Catherine "Kit" Campion-Ritz, a Newport Beach physician. If convicted, Lopez faces a maximum of eight years in prison.

The arraignment for a man accused of crashing into a bicyclist with his pickup truck and fleeing the scene was continued today, the Orange County district attorney's office reported.

Michael Jason Lopez, 39, of Anaheim, is charged with one felony count of hit- and-run causing death, and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence with a sentencing enhancement for a prior strike conviction for residential burglary in 1993, according to the D.A.'s office. Lopez appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom on Wednesday afternoon, but his arraignment was continued.

If convicted, Lopez faces a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison for the crash that claimed the life of 57-year-old Catherine "Kit" Campion-Ritz. He is expected back in court on Oct. 5.

Authorities say on Saturday at about 9:45 a.m. Campion-Ritz, an Irvine resident and Newport Beach doctor for nearly 30 years, was riding her bicycle on Newport Coast Drive with her husband when Lopez crashed into the back of the her, throwing her from her bike onto the street.

Lopez is accused of fleeing the scene and not stopping to help the injured Campion-Ritz, who was transported in critical condition to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. She was pronounced dead at 1:40 p.m. Saturday from injuries she suffered in the hit-and-run crash.

Lopez was arrested in Anaheim at 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

The death of Campion-Ritz was the second bicyclist fatality in Newport Beach over the weekend. Resident Sarah Leaf, 29, was killed Friday at about 10:40 a.m. when she was hit by a truck on Pacific Coast Highway and Bayside Drive. No arrests or citations have been made in connection with Leaf's death.

jane September 19, 2012 at 07:02 PM
A MAXIMUM of only EIGHT years??? You've got to be kidding me? Quite an insult to the family of Dr. Campion.
steve September 19, 2012 at 07:54 PM
AM I CORRECT ???? he hits her from BEHIND---FLEES the scene----she dies---8 years MAXIMUM ??? does not seem right ?????????????
David September 19, 2012 at 09:38 PM
What a pathetic world we live in. He gets a MAXIMUM of 8 years, probably out in half that time, and she is dead. Not too bad a penalty for driving like an Asshole, hitting someone with a car, and then fleeing the scene instead of stopping to see what you caused.
steve September 19, 2012 at 10:32 PM
jane Quite an INSULT to our JUDICIAL SYSTEM ?????
Margaret Walker September 20, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Ditto to all of the comments. 8 years.... Maximum... which means it will likely be less. How is that possible? Our justice system disgusts me.
Sasha G September 20, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Another winner here from south of the border.
LNorm September 20, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Not surprised in the least. Our judicial system is so out of balance. We need elect officials to rewrite our system entirely, he'll be out in 2 yrs. THIS IS DISGUSTING TO SAY THE LEAST.
Melissa M. September 20, 2012 at 09:03 PM
And who's to say that the reason he fled the scene wasn't because he was drunk at the time? Eight years is an INSULT drinking or not! What kind of person takes off after hitting a human being? I'll tell you what kind of person. A person that has no place in society and belongs behind bars for much longer than a weak sentence of eight years! And we wonder why people flee the scene. Hey....you may get away with it and if you do get caught? You'll be out in 4 years. No biggie. Disgusts me.
Biker395 September 20, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Here is the problem. If he were caught driving DUI when he struck and killed her, his prior DUI would have qualified him for a charge of second degree murder and a 20 year sentence. The law needs to be changed to increase the penalties for hit and run so that they are no less than would be the case if the perpetrator were DUI and remained at the scene. Otherwise, we are *incentivizing* perpetrators to flee, as was the case here. If Mr. Lopez is guilty, the longer he spends behind bars, the safer the rest of us will be.
Patricia Nance September 27, 2012 at 04:53 PM
How can we help support the Campion-Ritz family in court and demonstrate to the judge our outrage at this travesty in our judicial system? It is the least we can do on behalf of Dr. Campion, who I had the pleasure of knowing for almost 30 years as her patient. I still am grieving, having lost my physician, a friend and one of the kindest, most generous (and in her husband's words, "perfect") person I have ever known. A change in the system would be a way to honor her....how can we help?
Biker395 September 28, 2012 at 12:05 AM
The judge's hands are going to be tied by what the law allows she/he to do. What's needed is for as many people as possible to contact your state legislator and demand that the penalties for hit and run be increased so that DUIs ... especially repeat DUIs are not incentivized to run. Perhaps her local representative could introduce the bill in Dr. Campion-Ritz' name? Here is now to find your state representative: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html Incidentally, I rode my bike right by where she was struck last Saturday and saw the wonderful monument to her memory. Three lanes, a wide bike lane, and perfect visibility ... just the last place you'd expect to be struck like that. :-(
Patricia Nance September 28, 2012 at 12:52 AM
I am happy to work with our local representative to introduce such a bill in Dr. Campion-Ritz's name as well as Sarah Leaf...maybe the "Campion-Ritz/Leaf Law?" Who is in? I can't do this alone!
Carlene Parrish September 30, 2012 at 02:29 PM
When a pick up crashed through our car, up onto our lawn, and stopped a few feet from our bedroom window where we had been sleeping, I was perplexed as to why the driver chose to flee the scene (leaving his vehicle in our yard). In the days that followed, I found that it's common knowledge that the penalties for leaving the scene are significantly less than for DUI or many other traffic infractions. Hit-and-run accidents are reported daily on the news; people hit cars, buildings, and pedestrians, and just drive off! We have become accustomed to hearing that the driver left the scene. The accident that took Dr. Campion's life was tragic, and yet may have been just that - a tragic accident. The actions that followed - the driver not rendering aid and fleeing the scene - were reprehensible. We must have laws that hold people accountable for inexcusible decisions.
Carlene Parrish September 30, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Thank you for this information. I have just sent a message to Senator Tom Harman; it was very easy to do using the link above. I hope others will do the same. Thanks again!

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