Blankenship set for second pre-trial felony DUI hearing
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: January 16, 2013
A former Santa Paula Police Reserve will return to court again next month for a second pre-trial hearing in the felony vehicular manslaughter charge in the death of a Santa Paula Police Department officer.
Christopher Michael Blankenship, 45 of Santa Paula, was charged November 30 in the July death of 33-year-old Kimberly Hemminger. On July 22, 2012, Blankenship allegedly was drunk at the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler on Lookout Road when it overturned, killing 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, since 1997 a part-time SPPD Reserve officer, resigned from the police force the day following Hemminger’s death. 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 has pleaded not guilty to the charges - he is also facing felony DUI charges - and remains free on $50,000 bail. According to court records, his next appearance for an early disposition conference will be February 11, 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 12.