Guilty plea in 2008 hit-and-run death of Martinez cyclist
By Robert Salonga
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 06/15/2011 04:03:28 PM PDT
Updated: 06/15/2011 05:04:49 PM PDT
MARTINEZ -- An El Sobrante man pleaded guilty
Wednesday in the 2008 hit-and-run death of an
electrician and Martinez cyclist, capping a bizarre
tale in which the defendant eluded suspicion for
half a year and hid the culprit vehicle.
Harold Theodore Brown, 55, will be sentenced Aug.
18 to two years in prison, though he will serve just
one year in custody, according to a plea agreement
approved by Judge Brian Haynes.
"Guilty, your honor," Brown said in court when
prompted by Haynes.
The answer was standard, but the words were
cathartic for the family of 49-year-old Mark
Pendleton, an electrician and avid cyclist who was
struck by a SUV on Nov. 24, 2008, while riding on
"It was beautiful to hear 'guilty' from his mouth,"
said Paul Pendleton, the victim's son.
When Pendleton was found dead on the side of
McEwen Road north of Highway 4, the only trace of
the vehicle that struck him was the broken shards of
a headlight. For months, family, friends and
Pendleton's cycling colleagues banded together to
keep his story alive, canvassing the region with
fliers and establishing a bike memorial at the crash
In June 2009, Brown was arrested after an aborted
phone call to the California Highway Patrol, which
oversaw the case, led investigators to the would-be
tipster in American Canyon who implicated the
defendant. Authorities would later find the SUV that
struck Pendleton hidden in a relative's garage.
The case dragged on for two more years, with an initial plea
deal in July 2010 being withdrawn by prosecutors
after vocal protests from Pendleton's family, who
objected to the deal not including any jail time for
Michael Cardoza, the attorney Brown hired before he
was identified as a suspect, said his client's main
transgression was to leave the scene of the
"He pleaded guilty to what he did. If he didn't leave,
there wouldn't be a crime here," Cardoza said. "The
victim was in dark clothing, going like a bullet down
a hill. It wasn't all my client's fault."
Pendleton's family was not completely satisfied,
though, because after attending countless court
hearings, they will have to wait until mid-August for
Brown's sentencing. Denise Pendleton, the victim's
widow, pleaded in a letter to convince Judge Haynes
to abide by a previously set June 27 sentencing
date, arguing that Brown has had since 2008 to get
his affairs in order.
Haynes was sympathetic but said he ultimately had
to abide by the date agreed upon between the
"We think about it so often," Denise Pendleton said.
"We just want to finish it."
Robert Salonga covers public safety. Contact him
at 925-943-8013. Follow him at Twitter.