HONOLULU — The former owner of a Park City yoga studio accused of deliberately driving off a Hawaii cliff and killing her identical twin sister was acquitted of murder Thursday.
Second Circuit Judge Peter Cahill found Alexandria Duval not guilty after a trial that started Monday. Duval opted to have a judge instead of a jury decide the case.
Authorities described the 2016 crash as a hair-pulling fight over the steering wheel. The sisters were seen arguing on the narrow, winding Hana Highway on the island of Maui before their SUV plunged 200 feet over a cliff.
The crash was a tragic accident, Alexandria Duval's defense attorney, Birney Bervar said in his opening statement.
Authorities said Alexandria was behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer when witnesses saw the sisters arguing on the perilously narrow, twisting route along a scenic stretch of coastline. A witness cleaning a family gravesite on the highway shoulder told police that he heard a woman screaming in the vehicle and that the passenger was pulling the driver's hair and the steering wheel.
Anastasia Duval was in the passenger seat and was killed, and her sister Alexandria Duval was arrested. A judge later ordered Alexandria Duval released after finding no probable cause for a murder charge. She traveled to upstate New York and was arrested months later in Albany after a grand jury indicted her.
Witnesses testified seeing the women arguing on the narrow highway. Duval did not testify.
"I'm disappointed," Maui County prosecuting attorney J.D. Kim said after the verdict. "The facts clearly show it was at least reckless behavior."
Duval left the courtroom without commenting, the Maui News reported.
"It's been an extremely emotional ordeal for her," Bervar told the newspaper. "You can't imagine losing your twin sister in that kind of catastrophic, tragic accident, then being charged with causing the death of your sister, which she didn't. She's extremely relieved."
Duval is going to take some time to figure out what to do next, Bervar told the Associated Press.
The sisters, born Alison and Ann Dadow in the Utica, New York, area, operated popular yoga studios in Florida before they changed their names.4 comments on this story
The sisters moved to Utah and opened a yoga studio in Park City in 2014. They had several run-ins with the police during the two years they lived in the state, and faced charges including drunken driving, intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident.
In January 2014, they were kicked out of a restaurant when their drinking got out of hand, according to police. Officers said the twins fought with each other and with police who arrived after their car slid into a ditch. Hair-pulling was also involved.
The twins moved to Hawaii in December 2015.