A Long Beach man who let a stolen stove fly off the back of his pick-up truck on the 91 Freeway and left it there, causing a crash that killed a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, was convicted Wednesday of murder, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
The case was retried after the California Supreme Court tossed out a previous conviction due to “the trial court failing to give a required jury instruction,” the DA’s office said.
Cole Allen Wilkins, 41, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2006 death of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy David Piquette.
During the early morning hours of July 7, 2006, Wilkins stole a shipment of household appliances that were delivered to a home in Riverside County that was under construction, prosecutors said.
With the tailgate of his pick-up truck down, and the stolen goods not secured, Wilkins fled the scene, prosecutors said. As he was driving down the 91 Freeway in Anaheim, a full-size stove fell from his truck and onto the freeway.
He “refused to stop” and sped away, prosecutors said in a news release, even as several freeway lanes became blocked.
A number of people driving just west of Tustin on the 91 Freeway saw the stove sitting in the left westbound lane and called 911 about it, prosecutors said.
But Piquette was “forced to suddenly swerve” to avoid hitting the stove as he drove by it, prosecutors said in a news release. That’s when his vehicle crashed into a Mack cement truck, killing him.
Piquette is a 10-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department who is survived by his wife and twins, who were toddlers at the time of the incident.
“Our hearts go out to Deputy Piquette’s widow and children who had to endure not only the sudden, tragic loss of their husband and father, but multiple trials and hearings,” Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas said in the release. “This defendant deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering a police officer who was on his way to serve and protect the public.”