La Grange man facing DUI murder charges awaits mental exam

Sebastian Ray Pendergast, a 21-year-old La Grange resident, is set to undergo a psychological evaluation to assess his mental suitability to stand trial. The evaluation is related to charges he is facing for an alleged murder and other offenses linked to a suspected fatal DUI accident on December 26. The car crash resulted in the death of 17-year-old Lydia Koelzow, from Sonora.

Pendergast has remained in Dambacher Detention Center since his arrest on March 11, on a $1 million bail. His charges include suspicion of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, and impaired driving resulting in grave bodily harm.

The crash, which occurred off Highway 132 near Don Pedro Reservoir, involved Pendergast’s vehicle, a 2008 Subaru Outback, colliding head-on with a tree. Pendergast was seriously injured, and Koelzow, the right-front passenger, died on scene from her injuries. Although it was not immediately clear if alcohol or drugs were factors in the crash, Pendergast’s blood alcohol level at the time was 0.145%, far exceeding the legal limit. The county District Attorney’s Office later filed a criminal complaint against him, further revealing a previous DUI conviction from 2022.

Pendergast’s attorney declared doubt about his client’s competence to stand trial due to possible traumatic brain injuries from the accident. Pendergast will be examined by Dr. Luigi Piciuccio, a clinical psychologist based in Sacramento, with a report expected to take up to six weeks. The next court session is planned for May 10 to review Dr. Piciuccio’s assessment.

The deceased, Koelzow, was described by her father in an obituary as a beautiful, smart, and sassy young woman transitioning into adulthood, and her tragic departure was a significant loss to her family.

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