Driver charged in bicyclist's death

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WALLA WALLA -- A motorist who struck and fatally injured a bicyclist on Middle Waitsburg Road in May was charged today in Walla Walla County Superior Court with vehicular homicide.

Melvin J. Bohleen, 73, of 300 Cherry St., Dayton, is accused of driving with disregard for the safety of others when the wreck occurred between Valley Grove and Chase Roads, about four miles north of Walla Walla.

Officials said Bohleen was heading south on Middle Waitsburg in a 2000 Jeep Cherokee about 10:30 a.m. onMay 21 when he drove up behind Sara S. Eustis and her sister-in-law, Teresa A. Wolber, a companion bicyclist.

The Cherokee struck Eustis, 61, of Seattle, who died after being taken to a local hospital. She had been in the area to celebrate her nephew's graduation from Whitman College.

Bohleen later told authorities he didn't see Eustis. Wolber, of Seattle, reported she and Eustis were riding in a staggered "pace line," adding she was ahead of Eustis by an unknown distance and was closer to the shoulder.

Bohleen said he was driving about the 50-mph speed limit and noticed the bicyclist who was near the shoulder.

But, "The next thing he said he remembered seeing the other bicyclist, striking her with his Jeep at the front passenger side bumper," according to a Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office report filed in court.

Investigators saw no signs of impairment on Bohleen's part and no evidence Bohleen tried to avoid the collision, the report says.

The road heading south in that area is straight with an uphill grade. The sheriff's report says, "visibility is good to the crest of the hill."

Bohleen wasn't arrested, but is being summoned to court Sept. 12 for his first appearance on the charge.

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