UPDATE 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - Rockey Burch will begin a one-year sentence in county jail on Friday after being convicted for vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run and violation of felony probation.
He was also ordered to pay restitution to Carlos Gonzales' family for burial and trial expenses. The restitution will total $5,000 to $6,000.
UPDATE 11:46 a.m. Monday, March 18, 2019 - A jury found Rockey Burch guilty Monday on charges of vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run property damage.
The incident happened in April of 2018, in Palermo, south of Oroville.
He will be sentenced on May 1 at 1:30 p.m.
OROVILLE, Calif. - Butte County District Attorney, Mike Ramsey, announced new charges today of Vehicular Manslaughter, Hit-and-Run and Violation of Felony Probation against Rockey Burch, 56, of Bangor, following the fatal hit-and-run in Palermo in April.
Carlos Gonzales, 47, of Fillmore, was allegedly struck and killed by Burch's truck in the afternoon of April 19, 2018, while trimming weeds at the base of a utility pole along a fence line on Foothill Boulevard near Lower Wyandotte Road.
Ramsey stated in a press release that Burch claimed he did not see Gonzales along the side of the road, and there was previous evidence to support this claim.
According to the release, Burch's truck, a 2004 Dodge Ram 2500, drove off the roadway onto the right shoulder sideswiping a thick hedge. The hedge and brush alongside the road obstructed the view of a wooden utility pole behind the hedge. The truck went through the hedge and bush, sheering the utility pole off of its base.
The force of the collision flipped the pole upward, causing the truck to go under it. A later reconstruction of the path revealed that Gonzales was most likely obscured by the hedge and bush and was struck by the truck.
The release stated that witnesses observed a grey or silver truck with damage driving away from the scene after hearing the collision with the utility pole.
The next day, Burch turned his truck into the California Highway Patrol investigators after hearing news in media reports that the location he had collided with the utility pole was also the location of Gonzales' death. Burch claimed that he did not see Gonzales and that he was run off the road by an oncoming vehicle that did not stop.
Investigators found Gonzales' wallet in a hole in the truck's bumper where the right front fog lamp had been broken, as stated in the release.
Ramsey stated that the hit-and-run charge was a result of Burch failing to stop and at the scene to assess the property damage he caused to the utility pole and fence.
"Regardless of whether Burch saw that he had hit a human being, he was nonetheless required by law to stop and report the damage he caused to the property owner or law enforcement," Ramsey said. "Additionally, him running off the road through the brush and pole and colliding with a supposedly concealed Gonzales still demands he be held responsible for the negligent vehicular manslaughter of Mr. Gonzales."
The evidence did not support a charge of hit-and-run involving a person as the law requires the driver to be aware that he or she hit a person, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
"This loss of life is a tragedy," Ramsey said. "The charges filed reflect the constraints of the law due to the lack of evidence that Burch saw Gonzales prior to fleeing but hold him responsible for his negligent driving."
According to the release, Burch is also currently on felony probation for a conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm in September of 2016. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Butte County Superior Court on Wednesday, July 25, at 11 a.m. on the misdemeanor vehicle charges, which also form the basis of his felony probation.
Stay tuned for more updates. This is a developing story.