What Justice For Marjie Barnes-Grant?

December 19, 2013 was a typical San Diego winter day, with some light rain and overcast conditions. Aside from the rain, it was seasonably cool. All in all, a typical December day in Southern California.

December 19 started as a typical day for Marjie Barnes-Grant, as well. As Christmas approached, she worried about finishing her Christmas shopping and completing the various, sundry tasks that accompany the holiday season. Marjie’s daughter, Ana, would be in town for the holidays (traveling from the Bay Area), and she planned to see her sons, Jakob and Matt. She was also excited to spend the holidays with her grandchildren.

Marjie went about her business as she always did – on her bicycle. An everyday rider, Marjie was prepared for the mildly inclement weather – lights, reflective gear, the works. No one could ever accuse this 64-year old grandmother of not taking care of herself.

We don’t know how December 19 started for James Nungary. He later told the police that he was tired and, although he had been drinking, he denied being drunk. The cop that interviewed him conducted a field sobriety test and agreed with Nungary: he wasn’t drunk. Regardless, Nungary fell asleep at the wheel of his Toyota Land Cruiser, ran off the road, and, in the process, ran over Marjie Barnes-Grant.

Marjie never heard him coming and she never had a chance. Her shopping done, she was heading home on Campo Road in Spring Valley (just east of Bancroft Drive) when Nungary fell asleep. If you believe him, he didn’t realize he fell asleep until his truck collided with a tree, wrecking it. In other words, he claims he didn’t know he ran Marjie down. He also claims he didn’t see Marjie lying by the side of the road in his wake and, thus, walked to the shoulder himself and got a ride home. He eventually returned to the scene.

Marjie’s ride from the scene was in an ambulance. She had a concussion (she remembers little before the hospital), and she broke multiple bones (her pelvis in 2 places, her left arm, and her left fibula and tibia). The doctors told her she was lucky she survived. During her first week in the trauma until at Scripps Mercy Hospital (Hillcrest), Marjie had multiple surgeries (on her leg and pelvis) and placed in traction – she couldn’t move a muscle without disturbing her broken bones. The general proposition – and traction in particular – was anathema to this wiry, active woman. Adding insult to injury, the doctors drilled a hole through Margie’s right (non-injured) leg to place the cables and gears for the traction – to promote proper healing of the pelvis.

Margie Barnes-Grant at the trauma unit. Photo by the Barnes-Grant family

Marjie spent almost 4 weeks in Mercy’s trauma unit, and was only recently transferred to a long-term skilled nursing facility in Encinitas – many miles away from her boys who live in the City. She has a months-long course of physical therapy in front of her, and a life-long recovery. Who knows if she will ever ride a bicycle again – something she had been doing on a daily basis for more than a decade.

Nungary had no insurance and his driver’s license was suspended. Under the best case scenario (from his perspective), he was tired, had been drinking (but wasn’t drunk), left the scene of an accident after critically injuring Marjie (only to return before the police arrived). Under the worst, he was tired (and shouldn’t have been driving in the first place), drunk, fled the scene after realizing he had wiped out a cyclist and only returned to the scene when he had to. Indeed, the entirety of Nungary’s statement to police states:

“[Nungary] was contacted at the scene and related the following in essence: he was driving [the Toyota] eastbound on Campo Rd east of Hollyhock Ln at approximately 40 mph. [Nungary] stated he fell asleep and the next thing he knew he had struck a tree. [Nungary] related that a person stopped and asked if he needed help. [Nungary] asked for a ride down the street to his residence. [Nungary] related that a few minutes after he was dropped of (sic), the person returned and advised him that he had struck a bicyclist. [Nungary] returned to the scene and waited for emergency personnel to arrive.”

The upshot? No further investigation was conducted and no criminal charges were filed against him. Because Nungary is penniless, any civil judgment against him would likely be symbolic (and otherwise dischargeable in bankruptcy). The bottom line is that, in all likelihood, there will be no societal or personal cost to Nungary as a result of these events on an otherwise typical Southern California winters day. The same cannot be said for Marjie Barnes-Grant.

We at BikeSD are putting together a fundraiser for Marjie Barnes-Grant, a 64-year old grandmother who was wiped out while riding on Campo Road back in December. The fundraiser will be in conjunction with MJ Cyclery’s grand opening on January 31, 2014 (on Park, just south of University – right next to the Crypt). 7 PM. Not only will this be an opportunity to wish owners Jessie and Scott the best of luck in their new venture, but do some good at the same time.

The injuries are truly catastrophic and the goal isn’t to raise money for medical bills (which certainly total many hundred-of-thousands of dollars); rather, we hope to raise a few hundred bucks to get Marjie some items that will make her recovery more tolerable in some marginal way.