Judge sentences Ragsdale to seven years for DUI manslaughter

On Monday May 5, Madera County Superior Judge Mitchell C. Rigby handed down a seven year sentence to the Madera man whose DUI accident in May of 2012 resulted in the death of 60-year-old Gary Smalz and his wife 52-year-old Laura Smalz, of Ahwahnee.

According to California Highway Patrol, at approximately 6 p.m. Saturday, May 19, Gary Ragsdale, 43, of Madera, was driving a 2001 Dodge truck southbound on Road 600 north of Road 31 at approximately 55 m.p.h. At the same time, Gary Smalz was traveling northbound with his wife Laura as his passenger on a 1989 Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Ragsdale slowed to approximately 15 m.p.h. and began to make a left turn into a private driveway and crossed directly into the path of the motorcycle.

The front of the motorcycle collided broadside into the right side of the Dodge, ejecting both riders from the motorcycle. The Smalz were transported by air to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno with major injuries. Laura was pronounced dead en route and Gary died later at the hospital.

Ragsdale, who was found to have a 0.21 blood alcohol content the night of the crash, pleaded no contest Feb. 19.Judge Rigby sentenced Ragsdale to serve four years for causing the fatal crash and tacked on an additional three years for causing great bodily injury.

Ragsdale is eligible for 15% good conduct credits which could reduce his sentence to just less than six years.

District Attorney Michael Keitz said it was a sad day for all families and reminded people of the consequences of driving under the influence.

“People who drink and drive are making a very bad decision that can end in tragic and permanent consequences as it did here. The simple message is: if you drink or use drugs, don’t drive."