Q: On Dec. 17, 2003, a girl named Betty Rathbun died in a high-speed police chase. Also a young man in the passenger seat died. What was his name, and what is the story of their deaths?
A: Sacramento residents Betty Angeline Rathbun, 22, and Edward Sebastian Leary, 21, died in the crash of a stolen vehicle following a high-speed pursuit.
The events leading to the deaths began about 9:35 p.m. Dec. 16, 2003, in North Sacramento, when a Sacramento police officer made a routine check of a license plate on a red 1994 Acura Legend, according to a story in The Sacramento Bee. When it came back as a stolen vehicle, the officer turned around and began searching for the Acura, which was soon found on E Street, west of 26th Street in Rio Linda.
The Acura had run off the road and through a wooden fence. The driver was gone, but two passengers were walking away from the car as the officer arrived. After some questioning, they named Leary as the driver. Officers searched for Leary for an hour without success.
Six hours later, Leary showed up in another stolen vehicle, this time as a passenger.
A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy spotted two cars that failed to stop at a stop sign at 16th and E streets in Rio Linda. When the deputy turned on his lights, one car stopped, but the other, a blue 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix, increased its speed.
After failing to stop for several stop signs and traffic lights, and traveling at speeds up to 100 mph, the driver lost control of the car on Watt Avenue at the main entrance to McClellan Park, authorities said. Veering left, the Pontiac hit a concrete pillar supporting a railroad overcrossing. The impact tore the engine out of the car, a California Highway Patrol spokesman said.
Leary was pronounced dead at the scene. Rathbun, the driver, was taken to Mercy San Juan Medical Center, where she later died.
Leary had been released a month earlier from Deuel Vocational Institution after serving eight months of a 16-month sentence for auto theft.