By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Jennifer and Kirk Nichols, courtesy of Dignity Memorial
March 4, 2023 (Jamul) – Robert Keith Thomas, 30, pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and has been sentenced to four years in state prison, CBS 8 reports. He was driving a pickup truck on State Route 94 on Feb. 25, 2022 when a boat trailer he was towing came unhitched and slid across the highway.
It struck a vehicle driven by Jennifer Nichols, 49, wife of then-interim San Diego Harbor Police Chief Kirk Nichols. She later died in a hospital. Her husband, who was a passenger, had minor injuries.
Thomas also faces a civil suit filed by Nichols’ husband and their two sons, Times of San Diego reports.
Thomas reportedly had driven to Jamul to pick up a boat offered online for free.
The lawsuit alleges that after picking up the boat on a trailer, he approached a stop sign at Honey Springs Road and State Route 94, but was unable to stop due to brake problems. The suit also contends that the boat and trailer were too heavy for the truck to tow, and that brake components had been removed previously from the trailer.
The suit also names the pickup truck’s owner as a defendant for allegedly not maintaining his truck or knowing how it would be used. In addition, the Nichols’ family is suing the man who gave the boat away for allegedly not making sure the trailer was properly secured.