Hit-and-run driver in I-80 death near Auburn faces four years in prison

Christopher Keller to be sentenced in death of Davey Robinson Jr.
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A Newcastle man has pleaded no contest to a charge of hit-and-run driving causing the death in March on Interstate 80 of tow-truck driver Davey Robinson Jr. and is to be sentenced today.

Christopher Michael Keller, 25, faces a potential four-year sentence in state prison after agreeing to the no contest plea in Placer County Superior Court.

Keller was behind the wheel March 20 on westbound I-80 near the Ophir Road exit when his car struck and killed Robinson. He subsequently drove away from the scene and was arrested in Foresthill five days later.

Keller pleaded no contest to a vehicle code charge of hit-and-run causing death and is facing a stipulated sentence of the upper term of four years. A manslaughter charge was dismissed.

Sentencing is scheduled to take place at the Placer County Jail courtroom this morning before Judge Richard Couzens.

 According to a California Highway Patrol report, Robinson had pulled his tow truck over onto the right-hand shoulder of the freeway and was outside the vehicle when he was struck and killed.

Keller fled the scene without stopping and when arrested five days later, admitted to the hit and run, the report stated. He changed his not-guilty plea to one of no contest on Oct. 11 after the Placer County District Attorney’s Office made the offer earlier in the month of a four-year sentence.

In an earlier report submitted by the District Attorney’s Office as part of court proceedings, prosecutors stated that the force of the collision nearly destroyed Keller’s car windshield but he kept driving westward.

Another driver followed and called 911 before Keller exited I-80 at the Highway 193 off ramp and spun out of control, the District Attorney’s report said.

“The other driver followed the defendant onto the freeway but gave up pursuit because Keller was driving recklessly and the 911 operator advised him to stop,” the report said.

Keller would later pass the scene of an unrelated traffic accident near Foresthill, the report stated. Placer County Sheriff’s Office deputies saw the defendant driving with a smashed-out windshield but were unaware of the hit and run on I-80, the report said.

Keller parked the car at a Foresthill residence and put a tarp over the damage after telling a person who lived at the residence that he had hit a deer. A local resident saw a news report and called law enforcement after seeing the car covered by a tarp, the DA’s report said.

“Keller was questioned and confessed,” the report said. “He said he hit Davey Robinson Jr. while driving at freeway speed. He thought he wouldn’t be caught because he didn’t have license plates on his vehicle.”

Instead, the car had a temporary owner’s permit.

“He tried to destroy evidence because he thought he could escape prosecution,” the report said. “He had no intention of voluntarily acknowledging responsibility.”