By Misha Berman
It is February 4, 2016, in Department 8 and the court is conducting the preliminary hearing for Defendant Ronald Freeman Demello, who is being charged with a felony for a “hit and run” which killed a tow truck driver. The defendant is a 62-year-old big-rig driver from Stockton. Criminal Defense Attorney Brian R. Chavez-Ochoa is currently asking questions of the witness, who is a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer.
“Evidence included damage to fog lights, head lights and mirror, but no DNA,” the CHP officer says.
Mr. Chavez-Ochoa then says he doesn’t deny that Mr. Demello was at the scene.
“I found dual track marks in the alleged victim’s blood, [but] there is no DNA due to blood tissue being too soft,” says the CHP officer.
The CHP officer then points out how another witness said that Mr. Demello was traveling 67 miles per hour, and he also notes that the other witness said the accident was due to the defendant’s vehicle “swerving,” but that he did not actually see the victim get hit.
Mr. Chavez-Ochoa then asks the CHP officer about the damaged mirror on Mr. Demello’s vehicle.
“If damage occurred on February 23rd of 2015, why did they wait until March 3rd for it to be reported?” asks Mr. Chavez-Ochoa.
The CHP officer has no answer for that question. According to the officer, Mr. Demello was given a write up for not “reporting” the fact that his vehicle was damaged.
The CHP officer says Mr. Demello stated that he wasn’t sure if he hit something when he was asked whether he did or not.
Mr. Chavez-Ochoa then asks the CHP officer about when he asked Mr. Demello whether he believes he should call the police when he is not sure what he hit. The officer says Mr. Demello responded that he didn’t believe that anybody was hit, but he did not know for sure.
“I think that Mr. Demello knew he hit somebody due to inconsistent statements dealing with several traffic collisions,” asserts the CHP officer.
The officer then says that when truck drivers hit something, even if it is a minor collision, they will report the incident because they don’t want to get in trouble and risk getting fired. Mr. Chavez-Ochoa counters that Mr. Demello didn’t want to report the incident due to fear of getting fired.
Judge Reed finally rules that the “court finds strong evidence that this incident was a hit and run with death or permanent injury while using cellphone on counts 1 and 2.”
Judge Reed then says there will be an arraignment on February 19, 2016, in Department 8.