Blankenship pleads not guilty to vehicular manslaughter charge

December 05, 2012
Santa Paula News

A former Santa Paula Police Reserve was charged Friday with felony vehicular manslaughter in the July death of a SPPD officer who was killed when she was pinned under an overturned Jeep Wrangler on South Mountain.

Christopher Blankenship, 45, of Santa Paula, allegedly was drunk when he was at the wheel of the vehicle on July 22 on Lookout Road when it overturned, killing 33-year-old Kimberly Hemminger. A SPPD officer since January 2008, the off-duty Hemminger was in the front passenger seat when the Jeep Wrangler overturned when Blankenship failed to negotiate a right curve and lost control of the vehicle.

The rollover occurred at about 9:15 p.m. on the private road on the isolated mountainside. It took emergency responders including SPPD and Santa Paula Fire personnel about an hour to locate the overturned Jeep; Hemminger, a resident of Oxnard, was declared dead at the scene.

Blankenship, a part-time SPPD reserve officer since 1997, has resigned from the police force, according to Interim Chief Ishmael Cordero. Blankenship “resigned from department the following Monday after the incident, after he posted bail” and was released from jail.

Hemminger’s memorial service was attended by hundreds of members of Ventura County’s law enforcement family, including those members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit she participated in with her horse Scooby. 

Blankenship pleaded not guilty to the charges - he is also facing felony DUI charges - before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin McGee, who continued the case to January 10, 2013. Blankenship, who remains free on $50,000 bail, appeared in court with his attorney Jay Leiderman of the Ventura-based law firm Leiderman Devine.

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