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6-TIME DUI CONVICT FACES MURDER CHARGE.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry and Karen Maeshiro / Daily News Staff Writers

Joel Kyne loved life, his friends say, but he loved alcohol, too, and now he stands accused of murder.

Erica Nemback taught fourth grade and Sunday school, and prayed nightly for each of her students. Now she's dead, the victim of a man whose alcoholism has led to six drunk-driving convictions.

Their lives collided at an intersection in Lancaster, when Kyne - after a night of drinking, police say - hit broadside a car driven by Nemback, who was returning from a shopping trip with her mother and sister.

Scattered around the wreckage of Kyne's Toyota truck were empty beer cans. From Nemback's Honda Accord came school papers and lessons from Bible school.

``It's a bad, terrible situation,'' said Kyne's 77-year-old invalid mother, Helen.

Kyne, a self-employed carpenter, was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.35 percent - more than four times the legal limit.

Because his six previous DUI convictions indicate he knew the dangers of driving drunk, prosecutors have charged Kyne with second-degree murder instead of manslaughter in Nemback's death. He pleaded not guilty Friday and remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail.

In an interview with investigators after the crash, Kyne said he didn't remember much about the night of Oct. 18, but knew his actions had dire consequences.

``I have to take responsibility for what I've done,'' he told a traffic deputy, according to court documents. ``Now I have to face the consequences of my actions.''

At 49, Kyne lived in Quartz Hill with his mother, who uses a wheelchair and is hooked up to an oxygen tank. Divorced for years - he blamed his early drunk-driving arrests on the breakup of his marriage - he dates an Elks Lodge bartender.

As a young man, he raced motorcycles professionally, friends say, traveling across the United States and into Canada. He stopped when his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle collision.

A friend says Kyne was a perfectionist in his work, able to build a house from the ground up, and a father figure over the years to many local teen-agers.

``He loved life,'' said Ronald Shaw, 44, a carpentry partner who once lived with Joel and Helen Kyne. ``He considered life a hobby.''

But Kyne also loved alcohol. He had been arrested and convicted six times for drunken driving, starting in 1980. He repeatedly violated probation and drove after his license had been taken away.

His DUI arrests - combined with failing to show up for court appearances - put him in jail for 2-1/2 years, Kyne told investigators, though that couldn't be confirmed from court records.

Kyne's friend Shaw believes the second-degree murder charge is unjust, making Kyne a scapegoat for American society's intolerance of drunk driving. His friend is truly sorry for what he did, he said.

``He's not an outright criminal just because he drank,'' Shaw said. ``He's an alcoholic, not a criminal.''

Investigators say Kyne started Oct. 18 at Del Sur Gardens, a Lancaster bar, where he said he went looking for eyeglasses his girlfriend had lost the previous night.

From there, he went to a home in Elizabeth Lake to discuss a carpentry job - and to drink beer, authorities said. He then returned to the bar and drank two rum-and-Cokes.

When he left the bar around 7 p.m. to drive to a friend's house, more beer was in an ice chest in the cab of his pickup truck, deputies say. But the friend was not home, and after waiting for an hour, Kyne drove away.

Minutes later, he plowed at 50 mph through the stop sign at Avenue J and 60th Street West. Nemback's car was in the way.

Nemback, the 27-year-old daughter of a California Highway Patrol officer once honored for drunk-driving arrests, was killed instantly.

She had been driving home from shopping with her mother and sister, who were traveling in another car. When the women saw the emergency vehicles around the wreck, they didn't know who was involved until they tried to call Nemback at home, then drove to her house to find it empty.

Fearfully, they drove back to the crash site, where they saw her crumpled Honda - and a blanket-covered body on the ground.

``That's my daughter,'' Lynette Nemback told a sheriff's deputy. ``She's gone.''

The crash came on the last day of the fall trimester at Cottonwood Elementary School, where Erica Nemback had taught for five years. She had ended class that day with a hug for each of her students.

Now teachers, parents and children remember her by leaving flowers on a stone bench placed at the school in her memory.

``She was very positive and very sensitive to each person's need,'' said Celeste McDonald, who took over Nemback's fourth-grade class. ``She was very caring.''

Nemback's family moved to the Antelope Valley in 1979. As a girl she attended Quartz Hill Elementary School, and returned there after college for her first teaching job.

She transferred five years ago to Cottonwood and was selected to instruct other teachers in new methods of teaching math. She bought her first home just two months before her death.

On weekends, Nemback taught Sunday school at Desert Vineyard Church, where she was working to get a playground built. A memorial fund set up after her death collected $15,000 toward the project.

And every evening, she would pray for each of her students, using cards on which she had listed their special interests and needs.

``This was something we didn't even know about,'' said Lisa MacDonald, another Cottonwood teacher. ``We found out later.

``We miss her. We miss her at Cottonwood, and we miss her in our daily lives.''

KYNE'S RECORD AT A GLANCE

Joel Kyne has a drunk-driving record dating to 1980, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. His offenses:

August 1980: Kyne was convicted in Bishop Municipal Court of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced to five days in jail, ordered to pay a fine, placed on a year's probation and referred to a drinking-driver program.

June 1981: Kyne was convicted in Antelope Valley Municipal Court of DUI. He was fined, placed on two years' probation, restricted to driving for work only and again referred to a drinking-driver program.

October 1982: Kyne was convicted in Antelope Valley Municipal Court of DUI and received a suspended sentence of 240 days in jail and was placed on two years' probation.

May 1985: Kyne was convicted in Antelope Valley Municipal Court of DUI and driving with a suspended license. He was fined, placed on three years' probation, given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and had his license revoked.

October 1987: Kyne was convicted of two separate incidents in September and November 1985 of drunk driving and driving with a revoked license. He was sentenced to 395 days in jail, had his license suspended for four years and was placed on three years' probation. He also was ordered not to commit any crimes, not to refuse a blood-alcohol test or drive a vehicle with alcohol in his bloodstream.

March 1995: Kyne was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving on San Francisquito Canyon Road in the Santa Clarita Valley. No charges were filed because his blood-alcohol level measured 0.07 percent, or 0.01 below the legal level. He was convicted a month later of speeding and ordered to go to traffic school.

Oct. 18, 1997: Kyne was arrested with a blood-alcohol level of 0.35 after his Toyota pickup hit broadside a Honda Accord driven by Erica Lemback. He pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree murder charges and remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail.

SOURCE: Daily News Research

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Box

PHOTO Erica Nemback poses for the class picture with her students at Cottonwood Elementary a month before she was killed by a drunk driver.

BOX: KYNE`S RECORD AT A GLANCE (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 28, 1997
Words:1320
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