BISBEE — The trial date for a woman accused of vehicular manslaughter was pushed back Friday because of uncertainties presented by rising COVID-19 cases in the area.
Debra Charlotte Franco’s trial was supposed to begin on Feb. 21 in Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal’s courtroom. On Friday afternoon, Franco’s attorney asked that the date be vacated because of the situation with the virus and the rapid rise in cases in Cochise County.
Cardinal said she was not aware of any administrative orders being issued by the Arizona Supreme Court regarding additional COVID-19-related restrictions and precautions for superior courts around the state. But the judge, Assistant County Attorney Doyle Johnstun and Franco’s lawyer, David Wilkison, agreed to come back on Feb. 22, in the hopes that they can determine what the situation is with the pandemic and when a new trial date can be set.
As of Friday afternoon, according to Cochise Health and Social Services’ website, there were 31 new COVID-19 cases in the county, for a total of 8,533.
Franco, who lives in Silver City, N.M., is charged with reckless manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Jesus Campoy of Douglas on Aug. 31. She had been in jail but was released on a $50,000 bond.
Authorities say Franco took a wrong turn onto State Route 80 from SR90 and as she was attempting a U-turn Campoy tried to avoid Franco’s sport utility vehicle and struck a guardrail. The impact sent Campoy across the roadway. His car was then struck by another motorist, killing Campoy instantly. The other driver was injured, police said.
At a hearing last year, Johnstun said Franco “fled the scene sometimes driving at 100 miles per hour.” He said she was pursued by an off-duty California Highway patrolman who was in the area. Franco was stopped near Tombstone.
Franco, 67, is not incarcerated but she is wearing an ankle monitor.