By Christina D.
On August 3, 2016, in Department 13, Judge Paul Richardson presided over the preliminary hearing for Steven Hendrix. He was involved in the deadly car collision on February 24, 2016, on Second Street in Davis.
He faces charges of murder, manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs, endangerment of the health of a child, driving with privilege revoked, and possession of not more than 24.8 grams of marijuana.
Witness 1 testimony
Witness 1, “BS,” had been the defendant’s girlfriend for two years at the time of the car accident. She testified that on the morning of the accident, she left a Davis homeless shelter in her Ford Taurus crossover SUV with her three children, her sister, her niece, and Hendrix. They left at 5am, which is when the shelter required everyone to leave, and went to get breakfast. Between 8-9am, BS then drove the four kids to an elementary school in West Sacramento. She then testified to driving herself, her sister, and Hendrix to the West Sacramento library, where they stayed until it was time to pick up the children from school, around 2:30pm. BS claimed that they never left the library even to get food for lunch.
BS also testified to smoking marijuana in the morning after dropping off her kids at school, in order to feel calm and collected enough to “do (what she) needed to do” that day. She didn’t remember where or what time she smoked a marijuana “blunt,” but she had remembered that it was in her vehicle. She stated that her sister and Hendrix were in the car with her, but that Hendrix hadn’t smoked. However, she had seen him smoke two or three days before the accident, and testified that Hendrix seemed calm whenever he had smoked. She made sure she smoked after her kids left, because she didn’t want to smoke in the presence of her children. She also smoked a second joint or blunt (a term for a more thickly-wrapped, as with a tobacco leaf, marijuana cigarette or cigar) of marijuana before picking her children up from school.
BS claimed not to have done any other drugs that week, but, when questioned by Deputy District Attorney David Robbins about the presence of methamphetamine (meth) in her drug test, BS testified to trying it the day before with Hendrix. She had also talked to Hendrix about needing weed, and had asked him to pick some up for her every other day. They would split a small bag of it, and she would usually smoke three or four blunts a day.
After picking up the children from school, BS returned to the library with her sister, the four kids, and Hendrix. Almost an hour before leaving the library, she and Hendrix met and spoke briefly with two friends she knew from her old apartment complex. Hendrix supposedly never went off with the friends or on his own for any period of time. Everyone stayed at the library until around 5pm, when Hendrix drove everyone back to Davis, with BS in the passenger seat, drifting in and out of sleep. BS was not sure why Hendrix was the one driving the car, which was owned by BS and her sister, but she testified that he had driven it at times from the time they got it in 2014. They took the I-80 freeway, which had some traffic, to Davis, to check into the Davis homeless shelter by 5:30pm.
On the way to the shelter, they had loud R&B music playing on the car radio. Nearly everyone in the car was asleep. BS recalled getting off the freeway onto Mace Boulevard in Davis, drifting back into sleep, and only waking up again to the sound of squealing tires and brakes. She remembered hearing her niece yelling at Hendrix to slow down, seconds before crashing into another car. BS didn’t remember any other screaming, or pounding of the steering wheel, or how fast the vehicle was moving. She did remember that her youngest child ended up in the second row of seats, even though he was supposedly seat-belted in the third row. After the collision, BS got out of the car through her passenger seat door, and tried to get her kids out as well. She never got to see the other driver, but did see the other car on the other side of the road from where they were. Paramedics arrived, and BS remembered being questioned by the police while at the hospital.
Mr. Robbins confirmed at one point that the family leaves the shelter at 5am and returns at 5:30pm every day. On the day of the accident, BS was getting her children breakfast from 5-8am. Mr. Robbins asked if BS and Hendrix had had anything to eat that day as well, and BS testified that she drove them both to eat out close to the library during lunchtime. This contradicted her previous statement about never leaving the library, even for lunch. Additionally, BS had also testified that, while they were at the library, Hendrix had actually slept in the car while she frequently checked up on him, even though she previously stated that he hadn’t left her side.
BS remembered appearing in court with Hendrix for a different case. She also recognized the photo evidence of weed, a weed pipe, and her belongings, although she stated that she couldn’t identify some of the items photographed.
Witness 1 cross-examination
During cross-examination by Deputy Public Defender Teal Dixon, BS testified that, although one of her children was in the process of moving to a different school, all four kids attended the same one at the time of the accident. She stated that they all stayed in a homeless shelter, kept clothes in their car, and kept their dogs in a kennel, or crate, in their car. BS confirmed that it was draining and tiring to bounce from shelter to shelter, and having to check in/out at 5am and 5pm every day. It was important to her that her kids were taken care of, and that they were safe while in the car. If the driver was not being safe, she would say something, and she certainly hadn’t expected anything bad to happen.
BS testified that, after the accident, Hendrix made sure the kids were okay and then went to check on the other car and its driver. She then became upset and started crying. Many people were present, trying to help and to figure out what happened, creating a chaotic situation that caused BS to feel overwhelmed and forgetful about the conversations she had with police officers. She and her family members were brought to different hospitals.
Witness 1 redirect
BS testified to finding a meth pipe in her car under the back seat, when Hendrix was asleep. Meth was already loaded in the pipe and she tried it because she was curious, but left some in the pipe. Then BS put it away in her purse because she didn’t want her kids to find it, and never talked to Hendrix about the incident. She also testified that she wouldn’t allow impaired people to drive, but hesitated before including smoking marijuana as something that would impair driving.
Witness 2 testimony (part 1)
The second witness, “WS,” was the sister of BS. She was questioned by Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor. Hendrix had not stayed the night at the homeless shelter, and had instead picked up BS, WS, and the four kids in the morning at 6am (rather than 5am). WS testified that they did go to the library, but at 3pm after picking up the kids from school, not right after dropping them off in the morning. Around 9am, after dropping off the kids, the three adults headed to a storage unit in West Sacramento, where they switched out clothing from their car with some from the unit. While at the storage unit, all three adults had smoked marijuana. Then they picked up three of the kids from one school, and the fourth from a different one.
The testimony and questioning for WS (witness 2) will resume August 4, 2016, in the same department and with the same judge. The preliminary hearing is expected to take the entire day of August 5, as well. After the witnesses were dismissed, there was discussion about requesting judicial notice for a motion to exclude, as well as objection to such notice.