Arrest Made In Fatal Hit-And-Run Crash Following 9-Month Investigation, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Reward Offer

May 12, 2021 | 5:00 am


A 42-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of causing the fatal hit-and-run crash last year that killed 65-year-old Deborah Ann Geneau, a case in which Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the Geneau family offered a reward.

Stephanie Heninger was arrested and pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run charges connected to the July 22 crash near CSU Bakersfield. The family of Deborah Geneau and Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles had offered a reward to $7,500 for the person who helped identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that was suspected of causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive. That vehicle turned into the bike path parking area across from CSUB immediately after the collision, police said. It had driver’s side damage.

Police learned through GPS location data that Heninger had been at the scene of the crash, according to a probable cause declaration reported by KGET-17. Police also obtained a statement from Heninger confirming she was the driver who left the scene, according to reports.

The vehicle in the incident was seized in Riverside County, Bakersfield Police reported. While police received several tips, police investigations ultimately led to the arrest. The court case is ongoing.

“On behalf of the Geneau family, I want to extend their sincerest thank you to Bakersfield Police Department, and especially Officer Chad Ott,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyer Matt Clark, the Geneau family’s attorney. “It is a direct result of Officer Ott’s persistence and tenaciousness that a suspect has been brought to justice.”

After Bakersfield Police Department completed its report into the crash, which was 165-pages long, officers recommended felony charges against the driver, including hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter, and unsafe lane change. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed lawsuits on behalf of the Geneau family against two other driver’s involved in the fatal crash. Both of those drivers were also speeding 10-15 mph above the 55 mph speed limit at the time of the collision, according to police.

Bakersfield Police Department released a video of surveillance camera angles. The angles included traffic cameras and footage from a Golden Empire Transportation bus that was in the vicinity of the crash.

At a previous press conference in July 2020 at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, husband Rick Geneau, husband of Debbie, and their daughter Dawn, shared about their loss, and pleaded with the driver who caused the collision to turn him or herself in. Rick met Debbie met when they were both 14 years old. At the time of Debbie’s death, they had had been married for 45 years.

Dawn Elliott told media she feels she’s had to take on her mother’s role and be the strength of the family during this time.

“You’ve not only taken my mom’s life, you’ve taken a piece of all of our lives.”

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

———

CRASH MEDIA COVERAGE

REWARD MEDIA COVERAGE

REWARD INCREASE MEDIA COVERAGE

NEW INFORMATION

ARREST COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, family increase reward for information leading to arrest in fatal hit-and-run crash

February 16, 2021 | 2:14 pm


EDITORS NOTE / UPDATE (MAY 2021): Stephanie Heninger, 42, was arrested on suspicion of causing the fatal crash. The vehicle in the incident was seized in Riverside County, Bakersfield Police reported. The court case is ongoing. For media coverage, please see the listing below. 

———

It’s been more than 6 months since the July 22 hit-and-run crash near CSU Bakersfield that killed 65-year-old Deborah Ann Geneau, and still no one has come forward to take responsibility.

Bakersfield Police Department has finished its investigation and filed its report in fatal crash. With no arrests made as of yet, the family of Deborah Geneau and Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has increased its reward to $7,500 for the person who helps identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that is suspected of causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive. That vehicle turned into the bike path parking area across from CSUB immediately after the collision, police said. It had driver’s side damage.

The family is also hoping any witnesses in the crash – or anyone who was able to take photos or videos – will come forward and provide police with any information they may have, including the driver of the dark grey crew cab pickup truck seen here:

Anyone with information is urged to call 326-3967 or the Kern Secret Witness line at (661) 322-4040.

Deborah Geneau’s husband Rick Geneau and Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark recently held a press conference, and shared the latest on the crash investigation, police report, reward, and more. Among the new developments:

  • Bakersfield Police Department has completed its report and investigation into the crash. That report is 165 pages long.
  • Bakersfield Police Department recommends felony charges against the unknown driver, including hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter, and unsafe lane change.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed lawsuits on behalf of the Geneau family against two other driver’s involved in the fatal crash.
  • Both of those drivers were also speeding 10-15 mph above the 55 mph speed limit at the time of the collision, according to police.

Bakersfield Police Department released a video of surveillance camera angles. The angles include traffic cameras and footage from a Golden Empire Transportation bus that was in the vicinity of the crash, police said. You can view the videos by clicking here.

At a previous conference at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, husband Rick Geneau, husband of Debbie, and their daughter Dawn, shared about their loss, and pleaded with the driver who caused the collision to turn him or herself in. Rick met Debbie met when they were both 14 years old. At the time of Debbie’s death, they had had been married for 45 years.

“You see these lines on my face, they’re not from old age. They’re timelines that I’ve spent with my wife,” Rick Geneau told media. We all miss her deeply … I thought I was the strength of the family. Come to find out she was my strength.”

Dawn Elliott told media she feels she’s had to take on her mother’s role and be the strength of the family during this time.

“You’ve not only taken my mom’s life, you’ve taken a piece of all of our lives.”

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

———

CRASH MEDIA COVERAGE

REWARD MEDIA COVERAGE

REWARD INCREASE MEDIA COVERAGE

NEW INFORMATION

ARREST COVERAGE

Holiday giving tips during this pandemic year of need

December 16, 2020 | 5:00 am


The holidays are a time for giving, and it’s needed now more than ever.

Traditionally, about one-third of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and of those donations, nearly 20 percent are given in December alone. But the end of this long, difficult year has seen millions of Americans unemployed and struggling to get food on the table. For those who are able, you may feel moved to be extra generous this holiday season.

For the Bakersfield-based injury and accident law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the law firm, its attorneys and staff supported dozens of worthy causes, nonprofits and charitable organizations throughout Kern County during the year.

“Kern County is the home of our law firm, but it is also the home of our clients, friends, and families,” said managing partner David Cohn. “It’s important we all come together to help our neighbors, especially during this pandemic year.”

As we enter the holidays and near the New Year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to recommend local causes and nonprofits you may consider supporting, as well as provide some giving tips, courtesy of Charity Navigator, at the bottom of this article. For a full list of causes supported by the law firm, visit our “Community” page at chainlaw.com.

  • The Hub of Bakersfield: The local nonprofit is committed to redefining and revitalizing Bakersfield’s urban core through various programs, events, and projects. As part of the nonprofit, the new Bakersfield Innovation Lab is a 10-month program where a select group of participants, who are passionate about the place they call home, come together to develop an impactful project to make the greater downtown Bakersfield area a more desirable place to live, work and be for all. Why is this relevant for Chain | Cohn | Stiles? Well, associate attorney Tanya Alsheikh was part of the inaugural Innovation Lab class, and marketing director Jorge Barrientos is a program facilitator and a member of the board of directors for The Hub! Not to mention, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has called downtown Bakersfield home for 85 years, so this is an important program. Learn more about Hub of Bakersfield and the Innovation Lab at thehubofbakersfield.org.
  • Bakersfield Museum of Art: Year-round, Chain | Cohn | Stiles supports the local art museum and its educational programs.
  • Bike Bakersfield: This nonprofit is a local bicycle advocacy coalition providing family friendly bike rides, bicycle safety education, and bike repair. In particular, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Bike Bakersfield as part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and safety helmets throughout Kern County through “Project Light Up The Night”.
  • Bakersfield Homeless Center: Efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue homelessness are underway. To help, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team. The program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.
  • MADD Kern County: Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. We can all play a part to help make sure our streets are safe. Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board, regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and is the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” Award by MADD Southern California. Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash“, in which the firm is presenting sponsor.
  • Valley Fever: California experiences more than 2,000 new cases of Valley Fever each year, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials warn people about Valley Fever year-round.
  • Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: The law firm sponsors several Hispanic chamber events throughout the year, which support local businesses, bring cultural awareness, and raise funds for scholarships, among other things.
  • California Highway Patrol CHiPs for Tips: The fundraiser supports the California Association of Highway Patrolmen Widows and Orphans Trust Fund, which goes toward to families when a loved one is killed in or off the line of duty.
  • CSU Bakersfield Alumni Association: The association’s annual event raises funds for alumni scholarships, membership outreach, and mentoring opportunities for current CSUB students. Attorneys Beatriz Trejo and Chad Boyles are alumni of CSUB, and Boyles is a member of the alumni association’s board of directors.

 

Giving Tips

  • Before you give to any charity, examine the charity’s finances. Make sure the group is a financially healthy organization, sustainable, accountable and transparent. Look for signs of effectiveness. The charity’s ability to bring about meaningful change is the key reason for their existence and for your donation. These websites will help you check on your charity:
  • Give to an organization that matches your beliefs and goals. There is a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it and confirm it offers the programs and services that match your charitable interests.
  • Take the time to research your charity so that you can trust them, and then give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed to continue their day-to-day good work. Don’t put strings on your gift.
  • If you gave earlier in the year to an organization helping in a disaster, go back to that organization and give more. Much of the need from any disaster comes later, during the recovery period.
  • Giving before the year’s end can get you a tax break. Check with your tax planner to see if you’ll benefit. This year, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, taxpayers who take the standard deduction are allowed an additional deduction of up to $300 for charitable donations made in cash.

———

New CSU Bakersfield mentor program matches students with graduates, friends of university including Chain | Cohn | Stiles representatives

March 7, 2018 | 9:05 am


“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg 

The California State University, Bakersfield Alumni Association recently launched its new mentorship program, Runner Alumni Mentorship Program (RAMP), matching graduates and friends of the university with current students who are looking for educational advice, career guidance, and life lessons.

And three representatives from Chain | Cohn | Stiles are proud to be taking part in RAMP as mentors. They are:
  • Jorge Barrientos: Jorge earned his bachelor’s degree from another California State University (Chico). His wife, Carla, however, is the president of the CSUB Alumni Association. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Jorge is the director of marketing and public relations.
  • Chad Boyles: Chad earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science from Cal State Bakersfield, where he was also a part of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the CSUB Alumni Association. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, he focused on personal injury and wrongful death cases.
  • Ray Pruitt: Ray earned his Worker’s Compensation Law Certificate from CSUB, and has taught criminal justice courses at the university. At the law firm, he assists in case development and management, and gathering vital evidence and information for personal injury cases.

According to the Alumni Association, this pilot program offers an innovative approach by providing students practical application of networking skills, as well as personal and professional growth over an extended period of time. It matches interested students with community members based upon students’ career objectives and majors, and aims to provide support and advise in areas such as networking, career planning and interview skills. RAMP is currently open to junior and senior-level students within the schools of Social Sciences & Education, and Business & Public Administration, and will run through the end of the spring semester, with a new cycle beginning in the fall. Those interested in being a part of the future RAMP classes can email [email protected] with your contact information and a note stating your interest in the program.

“This is a great opportunity to make a difference in a student’s life,” RAMP program organizers stated.

Click here to see a group picture of the 2018 RAMP mentors.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has partnered with local groups to make educational presentations to students, offer job shadowing and internship opportunities, and to serve as mentors. The law firm and its attorneys have also awarded student scholarships, and donated to educational and philanthropic programs that assist high-achieving and well-deserving students to pursue their dreams.

———

If you or someone you know if injured in an accident, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com for more information.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo delivers keynote speech at CSU Bakersfield’s ‘Chicano Commencement Celebration’

May 17, 2017 | 9:28 am


Beatriz Trejo, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorney, was recently honored to deliver the keynote speech at the CSU Bakersfield “Chicano Commencement Celebration” held May 14 at the Icardo Center.

Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. She returned to Bakersfield after earning her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio.

She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, Bakersfield Chapter. She also supports local programs focused on advancing Latinos and Latinas in Kern County, including Latina Leaders of Kern County and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Academy. Recently, she was selected as the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

CSUB celebrated its first “Chicano Commencement Celebration” in the spring of 1980.

“It is a celebration of the Latino struggle in higher education and of growing academic success of all underrepresented communities,” said Dr. Thomás Martinez, professor of public administration at CSUB.

Trejo delivered the speech in front of more than 200 graduates, and over 3,500 in attendance. Her complete speech is below:

———

Primero que nada, le quiero desear un muy feliz Dia de las Madres a todas las madres presentes, incluyendo a la mía quien es esta aquí hoy. A las que apoyaron as sus graduados y a las que hoy celebran su propia graduación.

I’d like to thank Omar Correa, the Chicano commencement planning committee, and Cal State Bakersfield for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. This is a tremendous honor.

By now you’ve heard it from your family, faculty, significant others, SnapChat and Instagram friends, but I will say it again: Congratulations — #TurnUp.

For those of you that don’t know me, and haven’t had a chance to google me, I am an attorney here in Bakersfield who sat in your seat 14 years ago. I am like you from the future. I really doubt google says that last part.

I was informed by the commencement committee that there are 215 graduates in attendance today and we have over 3,500 people in the audience. That means each of you brought an average of 16 guests.

Let’s think about that for a minute. That means that only half of your cousins got tickets.

But seriously, this means that each and every one of you has an entire community that not only supports you but is proud and wants to see you succeed. As Latino college graduates You have beaten the odds. You fought and struggled and today you celebrate this great accomplishment.  You beat the odds that were stacked against you when it came to high school graduation rates, college enrollment, retention, and now graduation.

You as educated Latinos you now carry all of our hopes and dreams for this community, mine included. Your success reflects on all of us. Our hope is that you will bring about change, change here in Bakersfield and our communities and neighborhoods.

Whether you like it or not, you will now be held to a higher standard than others. I don’t think this is news to anyone here. For the Latina women here today, this goes double for you.

I have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a juris doctorate’s degree, three years of experience working in higher education, and five years as an attorney, yet not a week goes by that I am not mistaken for a secretary or an interpreter. Please don’t misunderstand me for these are perfectly fine professions, but not once has anyone assumed that I was the managing partner of my firm.

A while back, I was at a mediation with two senior partners. Once we reached a settlement, we all sat down together and I began reviewing the terms of the agreement, to which I told our opposing counsel that there were terms in the document we would not agree to. With a look of dismay, he turned to my boss and asked ‘is this your paralegal?’ After I explained to him my role he agreed to our proposed changes. I think this was more shocking to my boss than it was to me. Unfortunately, I see this much too often. The challenge for me that day was balancing professional decorum and civility with pride and ego.

You too will have those challenging days, days when someone will challenge your ability not based on your performance but based on what you look like. It is the hard days the days that challenge you to very core that will determine who you are; your character will be defined not just by what you achieve but also by how you react in the face of that challenge.

Our lives are shaped by the cutting edge of our experiences. I want you to keep this in mind, your struggles and challenges have made you a better candidate for success.

Fourteen years ago while sitting where you are sitting now I had a plan, I knew exactly what my life would be both in my personal life and in my professional life. I cannot tell you how happy I am that those plans failed. I would not be speaking to you today had those plans came to fruition.

About a decade ago I was living in L.A., freshly introduced to the world of student debt working a job that was not very challenging; needless to say, I was very frustrated with this situation. I assumed right after graduating with a master’s degree, doors would open and I would find the career of my dreams. This did not happen. I took this as a failure on my part. This is when I learned the piece of advice I want to pass on to you – there is no such thing as a failure, only a change of plans.

To give you an example: I know there are some of you that perhaps failed a class in your time here at Cal State, but you did not allow that failure to be an option, you kept going. You took the class again, you changed majors, or you were able to compensate with other classes. But for you failure was not an option, you simply had a change of plans.

As for me, I took my career failure and began to look into other careers. Somehow, I got the brilliant idea that I could go to law school because frankly, I didn’t know any better.

I enrolled at the University of Akron school of law in northeast Ohio. I was one of only three Latinos in the entire entering class. There were so few minorities at this school that the Asians and Latinos had to unite in order to have enough students for a student club, so we had the Asian-Latino law student association. Not only that, but there were no good Mexican restaurants in Akron, Ohio  and it snowed 5 months out of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ohio. But if someone would have told me on the day I graduated from Cal State Bakersfield that five years later I would be in Ohio, unemployed, and digging my car out the snow in order to make it to class, I would have said, ‘You have the wrong person.”

The same goes for you. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans and by no means should a change in plans be considered a failure.

Having a plan is great, but just know that you will likely have several changes of plan throughout your life, but each change of direction is only getting you closer to where you need to be. Where you are needed and where you can provide the most benefit to those around you.

And as you start your journey into the post-grad era of your life remember that your path will be unique and there is no point in comparing your path to others. With social media it is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others or creating an alternate version of your life for others. In the end no one cares what you had for lunch and anyone that knows you, knows that you are not that pretty without a filter. #Truth True identity is not found in any app in your phone. Your identity is something that you are constantly earning; it is an ongoing and ever evolving process.

So for those of you graduating with a plan, good for you, you are on the right track, and for those of you graduating without a plan, good for you, you are on the right track. Remember that this is a world of infinite possibilities. Do not feel that your next step is the most important step you’ll ever take. It’s not. It is simply another step in the evolution of you.

Do not feel rushed to feel that sense of accomplishment. It took me 14 years and in invitation to speak at the Chicano commencement before I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Los planes son geniales pero las metas son mejores. Plans are great, but goals are better.

A goal is not nearly as rigid as a plan. Your goal could simply be to help others, or to provide for you family. The path that your goals will take you, will be ever changing. No matter what goal you set for yourself today I can honestly tell you that achieving a goal will not come without hard work.

When I was in law school a professor shared this piece of advice that has stuck with me throughout the years. He said, ‘throughout your career you will encounter opposing counsel that will be smarter than you, more experienced than you, and with more resources than you, but they will not outwork you. That’s the part that you control.’

We cannot control our background, we cannot control our upbringing, we cannot control our gender, or race, or the state of the economy, we cannot control the cards we were dealt, but we can control how hard we work to achieve our goals.

We can control how late we stay and how early we arrive. We know that we cannot knock on doors and climb the ladder of success with our hands in our pockets. Most of us learned our work ethic from our parents. Before all the graduation celebrations are over make sure to thank your parents and those who supported you  for their hard work and sacrifice.

Así de duro como han trabajado para llegar aquí hoy, ellos han trabajado más duro para darles la oportunidad de estar aquí hoy. As hard as you have worked to get here today, they have worked harder to give you the opportunity to be here today.

Make sure to thank that entire community that is here for you, even the ones that didn’t get a ticket are happy and proud of you.

In fact, let’s thank them right now. Can I get all of the graduates to stand up for moment? OK, I want you to turn to the audience and give them a round of applause.

Class of 2017, as you leave here today, I would like for you to continue to think of Cal State Bakersfield as your home. This university has now been my home for over a decade. In fact, I continue to attend alumni events. Just a few days ago, I attended the Spring barbecue. In 2011, I studied for the bar exam on the third floor of the library. I left a pink sweater there that hopefully is still in lost and found. The point being is that this university is also part of your community of support.

In conclusion, I leave you with the following thought. The poet, Omar Kyaam, once said, “Not one returns to tell us of the road, which to discover we must travel ourselves.” I have returned to tell you that your road to self-discovery is just beginning. Embrace the journey ahead.

Enjoy your commencement festivities, you have earned every minute. Felicidades