Lawsuit filed in cyclist's death

Melvin J. Bohleen of Dayton also faces a criminal charge in connection with the death of Sara L. Eustis.

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WALLA WALLA -- A motorist who struck and fatally injured a bicyclist on Middle Waitsburg Road in May now faces a second legal challenge in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

A civil lawsuit was filed against him Tuesday on behalf of family members of the crash victim.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of money from Melvin J. Bohleen, 73, of 300 Cherry St., Dayton, who also is the defendant in a criminal case charging him with vehicular homicide.

Officials said Bohleen was heading south on Middle Waitsburg Road -- about four miles north of Walla Walla -- in a 2000 Jeep Cherokee about 10:30 a.m. on May 21 when he drove up behind Sara L. Eustis and her sister-in-law, Teresa A. Wolber, who was a companion bicyclist.

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

Bohleen later told authorities he didn't see Eustis riding the bicycle. Investigators reportedly saw no signs that Bohleen was impaired.

Plaintiffs in the civil suit filed this week include Eustis' estate through her widower, J. Howard Eustis of Seattle, on behalf of himself, an adult daughter, Stefani Page of Portland, and Wolber of Seattle. The complaint alleges that Bohleen's Jeep "slammed into Ms. Eustis" and that Bohleen was driving negligently and/or recklessly.

The criminal charge filed Aug. 19 accuses Bohleen of driving with disregard for the safety of others when the wreck occurred. If convicted, he would face a standard-range prison term of 15 to 20 months.

He has not been arrested pending the outcome of the case. However, he is not permitted to drive, according to a condition of his pre-trial release.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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