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DUI suspect faces life behind bars

Posted: July 15, 2009 10:15 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2009 10:15 a.m.
While a 20-year-old Canyon Country man was charged Tuesday with murder after allegedly driving a pickup truck into a group of bicyclists, killing one, friends and co-workers remembered the crash victim as a charming and loyal friend.

Prosecutors charged Marco Valencia with one count of murder, several felony counts of driving under the influence causing injury with prior convictions and a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license. He faces 27 years to life in prison.

He remains jailed in lieu of $1.3 million bail, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Valencia is set to appear in San Fernando Superior Court at the end of the month.

One of the riders who was injured in the crash that left 43-year-old Joe Novotny of Stevenson Ranch dead, said the driver deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

"I don't have an ounce of sympathy for the guy," said Shawn Fluken, 37, of Valencia, who suffered scrapes on his leg and hip when he dove out of the way of the careening truck. "I think it at least should be that."

Novotny, a Minnesota native, had recently moved to Stevenson Ranch from Belgium to take the role of general manager at the Valencia-based liquid-filtration company Western Filter.

About 11 a.m. Saturday, he and eight other members of a local cycling club were riding along a remote, winding stretch of Bouquet Canyon Road. A truck crossed over the double-yellow lines and plowed into the group, authorities said. Novotny died at the scene and two others suffered moderate injuries.

Novotny's longtime friend Mark Ebner of St. Paul, Minn., said he and others who knew him were still in shock over the news.

"It doesn't seem like it's real right now to a lot of us," he said.

He and others described Novotny as an experienced and talented bicyclist. Ebner, who used to work at a bicycle shop, met Novotny when he sold him his first bike.

The two hit it off - they started riding together daily, eventually becoming roommates. And years later, Novotny was the best man at Ebner's wedding.

"If you look at the group of friends that we ran with, he was the best man for a majority of those guys," Ebner said. "He had a magnetic personality, overall."

A memorial service for Novotny has been set for 10 a.m. Thursday at Grace Baptist Church in Saugus, friends and co-workers said.
Novotny had worked for the Donaldson Company - a global provider of filtration systems that recently acquired Western Filters - since 1997. A company spokeswoman said the news of Novotny's death upset many who had worked with him.

"Joe was a well-respected, high-energy and outgoing individual," a company statement said. "Adequate wasn't ever good enough for Joe - he always expected the best of himself and the best from everyone he knew - and he delivered it. ... We are very saddened by this tragedy. Our deepest sympathies are with (his wife) and the extended family. They are in our thoughts and prayers."


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