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Santa Clarita Named In Wrongful Death Suit Over Alleged Street Racing

The family of Dakota Demott, a 19-year-old Santa Clarita teenager who was killed in an alleged incident of street racing in Sand Canyon, is suing the city of Santa Clarita and the two men charged with murder in his death.


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“The parties have submitted a stipulation requesting that the matter be stayed until after the criminal proceedings,” said Joe Montes, city attorney for Santa Clarita. “Right now, it’s difficult for the parties to complete discovery when there are criminal proceedings ongoing.”

Montes referred an inquiry as to the damages sought by the plaintiffs to the plaintiff's attorneys, the law firm Owen, Patterson & Owen, which is representing the Demott family in the wrongful death lawsuit. Attorneys for the firm did not immediately respond to a request for that information.

Colt Doherty, 20, of Canyon Country, who was driving the car in which Demott was a passenger, and Thomas Vensko, 21, are both facing charges in the fatal crash.Dakota Demott

The pair were in court Wednesday for a pretrial conference regarding the criminal charges they are facing. Vensko and Doherty are both due back in court Jan. 17 for another pretrial conference.

The next anticipated date for the wrongful death suit is in April 2014.

The lawsuit was first filed Dec. 19, 2012, five days after Vensko and Doherty pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the crash.

Thomas VenskoThe city has authorized the law firm of Burke Williams and Sorensen for its defense.

A series of delays in the long-running criminal case prompted the prosecutor to seek a grand jury indictment in May of this year in an effort to speed up a pretrial hearing, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, at the time of the pair’s indictment.

On the night of Jan. 10, 2012, Demott and Doherty were traveling in a Ford Mustang at a high rate of speed on Sand Canyon Road, according to court documents.

Doherty, 20, is accused of being intoxicated while street racing with Vensko on Jan. 10, 2012.

Doherty reached speeds of 100 mph before he crashed into a tree near Sand Canyon Road, according to the indictment.

When Doherty entered a curve, he lost control of the car and collided with a large oak tree, the impact of which ejected Demott from the vehicle and threw him into a fence, according to officials.

The indictment includes three counts for Doherty: a murder charge; a gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge; and a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Vensko, 21, is being charged with count 1, which is the murder charge, and count 4, which is vehicular manslaughter.

Additionally, Vensko is accused of fleeing the scene of the crime.

Demott was declared dead at the scene.

Doherty and Vensko were arrested in Aug. 8, 2012, and Doherty has been in custody since his arrest.

After a hearing last November, Vensko had his bail reduced to $100,000, and then he posted it, according to court officials.

Vensko was arrested because he was racing Doherty before the crash occurred, according to Deputy Mike Shapiro of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

“Even though he didn’t cause the death directly, because he was street racing, he faces the same penalty as the driver,” Shapiro said.

Doherty is still being held in lieu of $1.23 million bail at Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.

The scene of a fatal Sand Canyon crash


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Santa Clarita Named In Wrongful Death Suit Over Alleged Street Racing


Article: Santa Clarita Named In Wrongful Death Suit Over Alleged Street Racing
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Perry Smith