In the accident reports, Caitlyn is still Bruce.
“This is still his legal name on the day of the accident,” says an investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, which continues to compile its final report on the fatal chain collision back in February.
Caitlyn is also still Bruce in the wrongful-death suit that was filed by the stepchildren of 69-year-old Kim Howe, who was killed when Jenner’s Escalade rear-ended her Lexus, propelling it into the path of an oncoming Hummer.
But in a second suit—filed by a young woman named Jessica Steindorf, whose Prius also seems to have been hit by the Escalade but who escaped serious injury—the world’s most famous transgender individual is called “Bruce Jenner a/k/a Caitlyn Jenner.”
This second suit charges that Jenner drove “negligently, carelessly, recklessly and wantonly.”
The first suit contends that Jenner was “careless, negligent and reckless.”
The similarity of the language suggests that it is standard lawyerese.
And such negligence is not a judgment that the sheriff’s investigation has yet to formally reach, though it still could.
The official findings will be based on the facts as presented by reports from everybody who was involved in the investigation, from the sheriff’s office to the California Highway Patrol, as well as the medical people.
The conclusions will be the same regardless of whether it is Bruce or Caitlyn on the paperwork. The determining factors will be whether Jenner was driving too fast (perhaps) or following too close (some reports suggest yes) or texting (reportedly no) or intoxicated (also reportedly no).
And if the Vanity Fair cover showed a Bruce transformed to a Caitlyn, the findings being prepared by the Lost Hills L.A. County Sheriff’s station will offer a picture of Jenner that has nothing to do with gender.
All that will matter is what precisely Jenner did at a specific moment at a specific place under specific circumstances.
The impact involved will not be upon the culture, but upon the Lexus.
The primary concern will not be the belated birth of a woman now named Caitlyn, but the sudden death of a woman named Kim.
And the question will be how responsible Caitlyn is—or is not—for Kim’s violent demise.
By outward appearances, Caitlyn seems to have already found herself not guilty. She pronounced the collision a great tragedy immediately after the incident but seemed to portray herself as blameless.
What was most remarkable about that Vanity Fair cover was not what you saw, but what you did not see.
Jenner certainly did not seem haunted by the demise of a fellow woman four years older than herself, who lived not far from the Kardashian girls in a gorgeous residence that already had been shadowed by a terrible loss a dozen years ago.
Kim Howe and her husband had found a perfect house in a 6,300-square-foot Mediterranean villa that previously belonged to ace baseball pitcher Bret Saberhagen. It came complete with a pool, spa, and a “cave waterfall.”
“It was their dream home,” says real estate agent Jim Pascucci.
Just two days after the Howes closed on the place, and just as they were to embark on a European holiday, Robert suffered a fatal heart attack.
Kim moved in nonetheless along with her rescue pooch, Daisy.
“She lived there all those years by herself with the dog,” Pascucci says.
The agent recalls that Kim Howe kept herself perpetually busy with various charitable endeavors.
“She was always buzzing around doing something,” Pascucci says.
As has been reported by the New York Daily News, Howe had been active long before her widowhood in supporting the efforts of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to find alternatives to experimentation on animals.
Howe had never come closer to film stardom in Tinseltown than bit parts in two Elvis movies. But to the founder and president of the Physicians Committee, she was a star of the heart, an aristocrat of the spirit.
“Supporting and giving and kind,” Dr. Neal Barnard tells The Daily Beast.
She was the very best kind of passionate advocate, touching what was decent in others rather than badgering them.
“She had strong feelings, strong beliefs, but a very quiet, soft-spoken person,” Barnard says.
Barnard had first met Howe, along with her husband, in 1989, when the couple became early supporters of the fledging committee. She had remained stoic after her husband’s unexpected death in 2003.
“She was devastated by losing him,” Barnard recalls. “But that was not something she would share with other people very much. She was always on a very even keel.”
Rather than shrink back in her grief, she championed her chosen cause, volunteering and raising funds, and contacting her representatives in Washington.
“She had a real heart for animals,” Barnard says.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident in February, a Physicians Committee staffer was watching the morning TV news.
“It talked about Bruce Jenner having rear-ended this car and there was this woman who was killed, and they didn’t know who she was at first,” Barnard says.
The TV news then obtained a name, and an online search led to the Physicians Committee. A photo flashed on the screen.
“[The] staffer saw it and said, ‘There’s Kim Howe!’” Barnard reports.
The staffer informed Barnard.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Barnard remembers. “Losing her was a horrible thing. It was tragic for us to lose our longtime friend and to imagine what her last moments were like.”
Barnard knew Howe to have always been sensitive and careful. He says he was certain of one thing.
“She wouldn’t in a million years have caused an accident,” he says.
He is horrified by the thought of her stopping for a car ahead of her and then suddenly being struck from behind and sent into oncoming traffic.
“Can you imagine how terrifying that would be?” he asks.
Maybe such imagining does torment the world-famous personage who was driving the car that triggered the horror.
Or maybe Jenner has been too busy of late imagining herself as the woman she knew herself to be.
But what kind of woman is she?
What kind of person?
The person we should all wish ourselves to be is a kindred spirit to the person who perished in that accident.
“We miss her terribly,” Barnard reports. “She had a lovely heart.”
He speaks of her as a true celebrity.
“They don’t make many folks like that,” he says.