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San Francisco gardener charged with WVU grad's death

By Staff, wire reports

SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco city gardener was charged earlier this week with vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run after driving over and killing a West Virginia University graduate as she lay with her baby in the grass of a city park.

Thomas Burnoski, 58, who works for the Recreation and Park Department, was arrested after running over Christine Svanemyr, 35, on Sept. 5 as she relaxed with her dog and her then 10-month-old baby at Holly Park.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Burnoski veered onto the lawn from a paved pedestrian path to avoid an unleashed dog. After hitting the woman, he drove to a work meeting.

Burnoski was charged on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the felony charges at an arraignment on Wednesday.

A lawyer for Burnoski said he didn't know he had hit a person with his truck, the Chronicle reported. But prosecutors said Burnoski told his supervisor that he thought he hit "a dog or a child," and that Burnoski tried to get away before his supervisor forced him to return to the accident scene.

At Wednesday's hearing, Superior Court Judge Monica Wiley decreased Burnoski's bail from $350,000 to $100,000.George Gascon, San Francisco's district attorney, said Burnoski could face 11 years in jail if convicted. He called Burnoski's conduct "grossly negligent" and said it warranted the unusual charge of vehicular manslaughter as a penalty.


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