by Haroutun Bejanyan
Susan Hoskins, the woman facing charges of murdering her husband Bryan Hoskins with a .22 caliber handgun, resumed her testimony on the morning of October 6.
Her defense attorney, Tony Serra, directed his questions to the day of the incident, Sunday, August 3, 2014. Serra chronologically guided Mrs. Hoskins through her testimony, beginning from the time when she woke up that Sunday at 10am.
Bryan Hoskins, who, according to Susan Hoskins, suffered from a serious drinking problem, but had been sober for three months up until that Sunday. They had made plans to go for a long motorcycle ride that day on Bryan’s Harley Davidson, making stops along the way.
Their motorcycle ride began at noon and the first stop on their route was at Knights Landing by the river, where they had their first beer that day. They hit the road again a short while after and headed toward Placerville, making around five more stops at bars in the area. Susan claimed to have had around five beers by the time they arrived at the last bar, one at each of the stops they had previously made.
When they were at the last bar, Susan left Bryan sitting by himself while she went to use the restroom. Upon her return, she said she sensed that Bryan had drunk hard liquor in her absence. Her suspicions were confirmed when she smelled bourbon on his breath and noticed an empty whiskey glass placed to his left, although the seat next to him had been unoccupied.
Her stated reason for enabling him to drink at all that day was that he would have done so anyway, regardless, and the best she could do was to accompany him and hope that with her presence she could moderate his consumption. Shortly thereafter, they decided to go to dinner at a local restaurant, where Bryan’s descent into a drunken stupor became clear to her as he ordered yet another bourbon.
This is precisely the moment when his “sniping” remarks began, which, according to Susan, were comments pertaining to other men in reference to how she felt about them. To Susan, this was a dangerous indicator of Bryan’s intoxication.
Although he wanted to stir things up in order to get a rise out of her, Susan claimed to have maintained her composure and she said she did not react. He then proceeded to bring up an event concerning a specific male individual Susan considered to be a friend.
She disregarded his “sniping” and replied with, “I am here with you because I chose to be.” At that point she had already stopped drinking. They got on the motorcycle to head back home and Susan recalled that Bryan was driving in a very aggressive manner and blasted the radio loudly as he zoomed past cars, setting off a few alarms of nearby cars.
When they pulled up to the driveway, Susan recounted his demeanor as unusual compared to his past drunken states and that he was angry like she had never seen him before. A feeling of dread and fear came over her.
She did not intend to have an argument with him and planned to ignore him to let the situation deescalate itself. She also stated that she possessed no intent to draw a gun as they walked through the door.
Instead, her mind was occupied with getting a series of last minute chores done before bed and letting Bryan cool off in the meantime. She headed to the kitchen to put away some of the leftovers when Bryan came into the kitchen directly behind her, cornering her.
In the kitchen, Bryan began talking about Susan’s male friend again, accusing her of cheating on him with that individual. He became increasingly angry, described by Susan as posturing himself up and puffing out his chest. While he was standing five to six feet away from her, he called her a “lazy b—-” and a “whore.”
At this very moment, Susan drew the .22 caliber handgun from the drawer and pointed it at her husband. Bryan repeatedly taunted her to shoot him, taking a step closer each time. Susan explained what was going through her mind as Bryan was approaching her. “A very large angry man was coming towards me who had hurt me in the past, and who I was afraid would hurt me again.”
The weapon was fired in Susan’s hands and the bullet struck Bryan in the shoulder, causing him to stumble backwards and slump over the kitchen sink. She proceeded to call 911 and told them exactly what she had done.
In the background, Bryan was groaning in agony, saying, “God it hurts” as he went down to the floor.
Mr. Serra asked Susan how she would describe the tone of her voice in the 911 recording. She replied that her tone was flat, monotone, and devoid of any feeling – in a state of shock. Susan did not mention abuse by her husband to anyone because she said she was ashamed to admit it, since it was her second failing marriage and she did not want to deal with possible repercussions from her husband.
In addition, she did not want to leave him either, because she loved him and wanted him to love her, believing that she could fix him. “He was only bad when he drank, otherwise he was a good man.”
Even though Susan admitted to having expressed desires to kill Bryan prior to August 3, she regarded these as merely fleeting thoughts and daydreams that occurred only when things were bad between them. She never planned to act on them, as they were absurd scenarios – in one instance, she stated, “I thought about feeding him to the pigs, since pigs will eat anything.”
Once Tony Serra wrapped up his client’s testimony of the events that transpired on August 3, the prosecuting attorney countered with the cross-examination, seeking to exploit perceived gaps in the defendant’s testimony.
According to police records, the 911 dispatch received Susan’s call at precisely 9:53 pm. The precise time at which Susan’s cell phone came into close enough range to her home’s Wi-Fi signal to connect to the servers was 9:50.
This designated the general time that the Hoskins would have arrived at the house and, thus, established a time frame of 124 seconds between Susan’s cell phone connecting to the Wi-Fi server and the 911 dispatch receiving her phone call, which meant that the murder had to have occurred within that time frame.
The prosecution wanted the jury to wonder, if she had not premeditated the murder as she said she didn’t, how could the details of her story leading up to the fired weapon fit into such a narrow time frame?
Another point of contention raised by the prosecution was Susan’s blood alcohol level upon her arrest. Susan stated in her testimony that she had only had about five beers. However, her blood alcohol concentration of .07-.09 entails consumption of more than five beers over that period of time.
The prosecution also asserted that there was ample reason for Bryan Hoskins to have been suspicious of Susan’s infidelity and to exercise notions of jealousy. In addition to there being history of Susan having cheated once in the past, telephone records revealed that in the previous year there had been 715 calls made between Susan and the man who had been the subject of Bryan’s accusations the day of the incident.
Susan had lunch with this man several times and, on a particular occasion, they had even watched the red moon from the bed of his pick-up truck while sharing a few beers.
Returning to the description of the tone of her voice in the 911 recording, the prosecution replayed the recording and asked Susan if she still interpreted her voice as monotone. The prosecution detailed that there was no sound of quivering in her voice, and no indication of fear or shortness of breath. Upon hearing it a second time, Susan retracted her previous description as monotone.
In the interview with the detective following her arrest, Susan made several comments that the prosecution laid out now against her: “He gave me s— at the front door and I walked in and picked up the gun”; “He said go ahead and shoot me, so I did”; “He’s not a physical drunk, he’s more of a verbal one.” The prosecution added that when the detective asked if she had been physically abused, she had replied, “No.”
Following Susan Hoskins’ testimony, the defense called up their last witness of the day, Dr. Michael Pirruccello, who had been Susan Hoskins’ physician since 2003.
Medical records throughout the years indicate that Susan had suffered from both depression and anxiety for many years, for which she had been prescribed medications.
One of the medical records from the past detailed a physical examination that had uncovered an injury to Susan’s foot, which was inflicted while rustling with her husband. Other records have detailed accounts of chronic anxiety, depression and insomnia.
However, a December 28, 2010, record indicated that Susan’s mental condition showed some improvement, seeming calm and centered after having parted from her husband to live separately from him.
According to Dr. Pirruccello, stress is a major factor affecting the severity of the mental condition of someone prone to anxiety and depression and there is sufficient indication that living with her husband increased her stress levels.
Susan had never explicitly stated that she was being abused by Bryan Hoskins, for, if she had, the doctor would have been legally obligated to report it to the authorities.