Woman pleads not guilty to suspected DUI crash that killed Merced Court commissioner

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Ralph Cook served as a Superior Court commissioner in Merced for a little more than 20 years. (KFSN)

In the North Valley, a woman charged in a crash that killed Merced Court commissioner Ralph Cook pleaded not guilty Monday.

Jacqulin Calixtro, 38, is charged with a felony count of vehicular manslaughter and two counts of DUI causing injury. Cook served as a Superior Court commissioner in Merced for a little more than 20 years.

Attorneys said in this particular case, they might decide to bring a judge in from a different county or a judge could recuse themselves. However, it's still too early to determine exactly where the case will go.

Calixtro, the driver charged in crash that killed the commissioner, stood before the judge and pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against her.

"Based on the brief review I conducted in court, bits of info I had from prior coverage, there are defenses to this case," defense attorney Chris Loethen said. "There are defenses to each particular charge."

Cook, 68, was killed in early June when the Mercedes he was in smashed into a guardrail on Highway 99. Calixtro, Cook's girlfriend at the time, was behind the wheel. According to police reports, Calixtro started her night at the bar Kewl Cats where she had at least four drinks before Cook arrived.

She and Cook then allegedly had a fight in the parking lot. Shortly after, Cook was assaulted and flown to Memorial Hospital in Modesto. The report states a Merced Police officer contacted Calixtro at the scene of the assault and stated she seemed "extremely intoxicated" and ordered her not to drive.

Calixtro abided and was driven away from the club as a passenger. However, the documents state she later disregarded the officer's orders and drove to the Modesto hospital where Cook was being treated.

Reports show she was driving Cook and herself back to Merced when the crash happened. The prosecuting attorney said there's a chance the venue could change but it's too early to tell.

"As far as change of venue, or any kind of motions, that might come later," attorney Sara Rosenthal explained. "That will be something that will be addressed as the case progresses."

Cook's family also in the courtroom Monday stating: "His absence leaves us with a deep void in our hearts and in our lives. He was dearly loved and will be forever missed."

The defense says he expects this case will be difficult for everyone involved.

"I imagine there are a lot of people in the community who know commissioner cook and who have a lot of respect for him," Loethen said. "There are a lot of people who know Jaquilyn Calixtro too and know she's a good person and that she's a loving person and know this is a terrible situation for Cook's family and Miss Calixtro and her family and for all of their friends and acquaintances."
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