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Long Beach Man Charged in Deputy's Freeway Death

July 14, 2006|Hemmy So | Times Staff Writer

A Long Beach man was charged Thursday with the murder of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who was crushed by a trailer as he swerved to avoid a stolen stove that had fallen off the man's truck in Anaheim.

Cole Allen Wilkins, 30, faces charges of murder and receipt of stolen property, authorities said. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. His bail was set at $1 million.

David Piquette, 32, of Corona and the driver of a tractor-trailer lost control of their vehicles July 7 while trying to avoid the stove in the westbound lanes of the Riverside Freeway near the Tustin Avenue exit. One of the trailers landed atop Piquette's cruiser, killing him instantly about 5 a.m.

The Orange County district attorney has accused Wilkins of failing to secure the appliance in the back of his pickup truck. After the stove fell, Wilkins allegedly sped from the scene and later lied about his identity and ownership of the truck, according to the district attorney's office.

District attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder said the facts support a murder charge because Wilkins created a dangerous situation.

"His actions of transporting the stolen stove, and the fact that he didn't secure it when it fell on the freeway led to the death of Deputy Piquette," Schroeder said. "When he acted, he knew what he did was dangerous to human life."

Piquette is survived by his wife and 3-year-old twins.

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