The vehicular-manslaughter case against a woman blamed in the death of a popular South County teacher and triathlete was dismissed on Jan. 18, but the fight for justice by the wife of the deceased rages on.
Scott Clark was jogging around 6:20 p.m. Jan. 25, 2017, near the intersection of Niguel Road and Alicia Parkway in Laguna Niguel, where he was training for an Ironman race. That’s when a Mini Cooper collided with a Mercedes-Benz, which then struck Clark.
The 55-year-old died from his injuries on Feb. 8, 2017, at Mission Hospital, leaving behind his wife of 30 years and two grown children. A Capistrano Unified School District teacher for 20 years, Clark had last taught at Truman Benedict Elementary School in San Clemente, and then Laguna Niguel Elementary School.
The night of the collision, sheriff’s deputies arrested then-34-year-old Jamie Nicole Mulford on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon (the Mini Cooper) and felony driving under the influence. That marked Mulford’s fourth DUI-related incident, including one in Los Angeles County that resulted in the death of a pedestrian. Prosecutors did not charge Mulford there, however.
Back in Laguna Niguel, tests of Mulford came back negative for intoxication, but Orange County prosecutors alleged she had engaged in a road-rage incident in the moments before Clark was struck. She was arraigned in December 2017 on felony manslaughter with gross negligence.
After a year of pretrial hearings, Scott’s wife, Christy Clark, met in December 2018 with Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue, who proposed dismissing the case against Mulford. “Of course, I was outraged,” Christy says, “not because I am a widow, but because he could not offer a clear explanation as to why the charges would be dropped.”
She had brought her own attorney under Marsy’s Law, the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, whose legal affairs director had been none other than Todd Spitzer, a state assemblyman at the time. Christy says she and her attorney, Rick Welsh, had a positive meeting with Spitzer, who is Orange County’s new district attorney, the day before the court hearing, where she along with family and friends would watch in horror as the case against Mulford was dismissed.
Christy believes authorities and attorneys on both sides expected her to simply go away, but she vows to hold “rallies for justice and safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, as there have been far too many deaths as a result of reckless behavior.”
“I’m hopeful that we haven’t reached the end,” she says. “The meeting with Todd Spitzer was encouraging, and I’m grateful for Marsy’s Law, which has given me rights and breath.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.