Judge Reduces Bond In Fatal Drunk Driving Accident

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A judge's decision to reduce the bond of a drunk driver charged with killing three members of Dave Goddard's family has stirred the Payson man's ire.

"Blood alcohol levels, eyewitnesses and three innocents dead," he said. "How can they (the judicial system) expect people to take them seriously if they do not vigorously pursue what should be an open and shut case?"

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Rigoberto Arrazola

The decision to reduce Rigoberto Arrazola's bond from $180,000 to $35,000 and allow him to be released to a "step-one halfway house" if he makes bail was handed down Jan. 4 in Phoenix by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon.

That decision, Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Bill Fitzgerald said, was done "over vehement objections of our office. We are disappointed."

Arrazola had not made bail by the morning of Jan. 6 and was being held in the Fourth Avenue Jail. If he should pay bail and be released before his trial is scheduled to begin April 3, he could draw the attention of law enforcement officers.

"The big thing now is to try and monitor the guy through the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office if he gets out," Fitzgerald said.

The spokesman refused to comment further on the decision to reduce bail and possibly release Arrazola, saying, "We have to argue the case in court in front of the same judge; the rules are such that they don't want us to say anything about the case until it is over."

Goddard is not sure, however, if the case will ever go to trial.

"I just heard from the victim's advocate and was told a plea bargain is in the works," he said.

If Arrazola is allowed to plea bargain, as Goddard suspects, it would be in direct contrast to a promise Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas made in August only days before Arrazola pleaded not guilty to three charges of manslaughter, two counts of aggravated assault and four counts of endangerment.

In announcing a campaign to make violent criminals stand trial, Thomas detailed a new policy that cited 12 violent crimes for which defendants would not be allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses.

Arrazola's charges -- manslaughter and aggravated assault with a weapon -- are among Thomas's "Violent Crime -- Hard Time" plan.

Under Thomas' administration, those charges are supposed to be ineligible for plea bargaining.

Fitzgerald said he could not comment on the possibility of a plea bargain for Arrazola.

Steve Goddard, David's father, and grandfather of the two children who died in the pileup July 24 at the intersection of Beeline and Bush highways, is among those outraged that Arrazola's bail has been lowered and a plea bargain could possibly be discussed.

"To prepare to bargain the charges down to insignificance is not only a travesty, but also an insult to anyone believing in the justice system," he said. "He got intoxicated, illegally drove and wiped out a family."

Steve Goddard also said a plea bargain would be a contradiction to what the investigating officer from the Department of Public Safety told him after the collision.

"I heard him describe Arizona's intolerance for vehicular homicides where alcohol impairment was a factor," Steve Goddard said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokesperson Amy George of Dallas, Texas, said lowering of bail bond amounts and the release of drunk driving suspects from jail is not unusual. "It's something communities all around the country struggle with."

The test results

Following the collision, Department of Public Safety officers were forced to obtain a search warrant to draw blood from Arrazola.

The Roundup filed a public records request for the results of the BAC test. It reveals the suspect's blood was .080 percent alcohol, or the exact legal minimum needed to charge a suspect with driving while impaired.

However, Arrazola's BAC could have been much higher at the time of the accident.

In the length of time it took to obtain a search warrant to draw the blood from Arrazola -- estimated at more than three hours -- the alcohol concentration could have dropped significantly.

DPS Sgt. Dennis Isaacson said alcohol in the human body dissipates at a rate of .015 per hour. Which means, if Arrazola's blood sample was not taken until three hours after the 7:30 p.m. accident, his BAC was possibly .125 at the time of the wreck.

According to DPS reports, the collision occurred when Arrazola, returning from an outing at Saguaro Lake, drove his SUV through the intersection at Bush Highway and Highway 87 and struck a Chevrolet Tahoe driven by David Goddard.

Goddard said he saw Arrazola exiting onto Highway 87, but was unable to avoid the collision.

"After he hit us, we started skidding and then rolled," David Goddard said.

Goddard's wife, Pernilla Goddard, 39, and stepson, Simon Pallin Bergland, 14, were killed instantly.

His son, William Goddard, 13, was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix where he later died.

Goddard and his daughter, Alexandrea, 12, were taken to Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix and discharged a day later.

Arrazola was not injured in the accident.

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