The Nevada County District Attorney’s office will soon decide if a fatal collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian at Donner Lake on the 4th of July was a tragic accident or should be tried as a case of vehicular manslaughter.

The district attorney’s office is still awaiting information, including the blood alcohol level of deceased 46-year-old pedestrian Leonard Richard Whitlow, eyewitness statements about the collision and an autopsy on Whitlow, said Bill Cornell, deputy district attorney for Nevada County. Those details should be sent to the district attorney within the next two or three weeks, said Cornell, although autopsy reports can sometimes take much longer.

Depending on the information he receives, Cornell said he could file no charges at all or he could charge Petra Borhani-Bakker with vehicular manslaughter.


The fatal collision occurred at approximately 9:25 p.m. on the night of the 4th of July.  Borhani-Bakker, 24, was riding her bike eastbound on Donner Pass Road along Donner Lake when she collided with Whitlow, according to Truckee Police. When police arrived bystanders were performing CPR. Whitlow, who suffered major head trauma, was taken to Tahoe Forest Hospital and later flown to Reno’s Renown Regional Medical Center, where he later died.

Borhani-Bakker was booked into jail on a charge of “riding a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” The charge is punishable by a maximum fine of $250. Alison Bermant, attorney for Brohani-Bakker, said she was released on a promise to appear in court.

The Truckee Police Department provided no further information on the ongoing investigation.

Bermant said the collision was “a horrible, awful, tragic accident” but she says “inaccurate and inflammatory” information on the Internet has distorted the picture of what actually happened that night.

“She needs to be heard from,” said Bermant. “There is more to the story.”

Bermant said that Borhani-Bakker had already navigated a congested stretch of road without incident, before the collision with Whitlow occurred.

“My client was able to avoid making contact with several other pedestrians safely,” said Bermant.

Contrary to a press release issued by the Truckee Police Department, Borhani-Bakker was injured in the collision, although the injuries did not require hospitalization, said Bermant. The press release also incorrectly stated her last name as “Bakker-Borhani.”

Bermant called Borhani-Bakker a “kind and compassionate young lady,” who is  “absolutely devastated by this circumstance.”

Borhani-Bakker graduated with honors from Syracuse University and had volunteered with the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe to raise money for the new animal shelter.

Bermant said that the Reno members of Whitlow’s family have contacted her and authorized her to say that the incident was a “tragic, freak accident.” Moonshine Ink was unable to reach Whitlow’s family for comment.

But Whitlow’s Reno family members have contacted Borhani-Bakker, said Bermant.

“The kindness that [Whitlow’s] family in Reno have shown her is extraordinary,” said Bermant. “I have never seen anything like it.”

While the district attorney’s office will ultimately determine what charges are filed, the feelings of the family could factor into the decision on whether to file charges or not, said Cornell.

Meanwhile, Bermant said she has hired a private investigator to conduct interviews with witnesses who requested not to speak with Truckee police. She said she will hand over the private investigator’s findings to the district attorney’s office.

“Ultimately, if this is an accident, I believe [the district attorney] will handle this in the correct way,” said Bermant.

Cornell said that the defense is always entitled to do their investigation, and if a private investigator’s report is submitted to him, he will “give it the weight it is due.”


  • David Bunker

    David Bunker almost dropped out of journalism school to hunt non-native rats on an uninhabited Pacific island. Instead, he graduated college and launched into a career of dump truck driving and ditch digging before taking up writing as a profession. He’s written for newspapers and magazines across the West and won numerous first place awards in the California and Nevada press associations.

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