San Jose council candidate was on prescription drugs before deadly crash
Jenny Higgins at a campaign event in 2019. File photo.

    San Jose City Council candidate Jenny Higgins Bradanini tested positive for benzodiazepine, a class of medication sometimes prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, after she killed a pedestrian with her SUV in Los Gatos last year, according to documents charging her with a felony.

    Patients who are prescribed tranquilizers are warned not to drive because the drugs are known to make people drowsy, weak and dizzy.

    The documents obtained by San José Spotlight — including the results of Higgins Bradanini’s blood toxicology report — were provided in response to a public records request to the Superior Court of California County of Santa Clara, where she now faces the charge of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, as first reported by San Jose Inside.

    The maximum penalty for that crime is six years in a state prison.

    Higgins Bradanini finished third in the March primary election for the open District 10 seat on the City Council.

    A phone message left for Higgins Bradanini’s lawyer on Tuesday was not returned.

    Among the charging documents is a detailed police report including witness statements from other drivers who stopped to help and call 911.

    A report from the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department says Higgins Bradanini was “lying on the sidewalk… in the fetal position crying hysterically” when investigators arrived at the scene of the crash on Blossom Hill Road near the intersection of Cherry Blossom Lane on the morning of Dec. 16, 2019.

    An off-duty captain in the San Jose Fire Department who was driving in the area stopped and, after determining the pedestrian was dead, tried to comfort Higgins Bradanini as she laid wailing on the concrete. Another witness told police she saw Higgins Bradanini swerving in her Land Rover — and nearly called 911 to report an intoxicated driver — just before the activist and City Council hopeful killed 66-year-old Timothy Starkey of Santa Cruz.

    After she composed herself, Higgins Bradanini told police at the scene she had left City Hall earlier that day to go to her doctor’s office and was headed to a nearby pharmacy in Los Gatos to pick up a prescription, according to the report. But, police say, she could not remember whether she had tried to stop the car before she hit Starkey or what she was doing just before the crash.

    “I don’t remember what I was doing, I don’t know,” she told police.

    “I don’t know what I did,” Higgins Bradanini continued, according to the incident report. “I know I killed him, it’s all my fault.”

    “Am I going to jail?” she asked the officer on the scene.

    The officer conducting the interview reassured her that he was just trying to “figure out what happened,” the report says. Police eventually took Higgins Bradanini back to the station to continue the interview “away from the traumatic scene,” the report says. But before they left, she said something that raised concerns she might be suicidal.

    “I don’t even want to live,” she said at the scene, according to the incident report.

    Later, back at the station, police asked her directly if she was feeling suicidal.

    “I took somebody’s life by accident,” Higgins Bradanini said. “I don’t know how you get past that.”

    “I’m not suicidal,” she added. “I just don’t want to be here. I just don’t know how I can live any more.”

    According to the police report, Higgins Bradanini did not display signs of alcohol intoxication, but was unable to clearly describe her actions before the collision, had memory loss, trouble focusing and articulating her thoughts, or answering simple questions.

    She claimed she may have been taking off her jacket before the collision happened, but insisted she was not on her phone.

    Starkey died immediately on impact, suffering from head and torso injuries. The report said he was at a friend’s house hanging up Christmas lights.

    Timothy Lundell, an attorney representing Starkey’s widow and children, told San José Spotlight his death was “a crushing blow for the family.”

    “They are satisfied that it was a thorough investigation by police,” Lundell said. “But the family feels like they are the only ones to have suffered and they are eager for a fair resolution.”

    “Tim was a fantastic guy,” said Lundell, who is also a family friend.

    Higgins Bradanini was charged on July 14 and a warrant was issued for her arrest, but it is unclear when the court will begin hearing the charges.

    Contact Adam F. Hutton at [email protected] or follow @adamfhutton on Twitter.

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