By Mariel Barbadillo
On the afternoon of Friday, August 12, 2016, Judge Samuel McAdam presided over a preliminary hearing for Onellia Mojica Ambriz, who is charged with assault with a deadly weapon. On February 21, 2016, Mrs. Ambriz allegedly chased after and crashed into a car occupied by her husband and her husband’s girlfriend.
The preliminary hearing began with testimony from the prosecution’s first witness, the woman with whom the defendant’s husband was having an affair, “YG.”
YG said she was romantically involved with the defendant’s husband the day of the incident. The two of them met at his father’s property, where he parked his truck. They left in YG’s car, which the defendant’s husband drove.
After several hours, they returned to the property and saw Ms. Ambriz there. Her husband continued to drive past the property. She chased after them in her husband’s truck at approximately 90 miles per hour, and she hit the car with full force multiple times.
The initial hit occurred while the vehicles were on an overpass. When the defendant, in the husband’s truck, hit YG’s car, the latter came to a halt and lost power. That is when the defendant allegedly crashed into them a second time. At this point, YG said she saw the defendant drive straight down, make a right U-turn, and drive back to hit them a third time on the passenger side.
The final hit dented the passenger door inward and shattered the window. YG was sitting in the passenger seat, but she moved away from the door just before the impact. Neither she nor the defendant’s husband suffered physical injuries.
Ms. Ambriz, her husband, and YG then exited their respective vehicles. YG alleges that the defendant grabbed her by her hair, tried to hit her with a closed fist, and bit her hand when she, YG, tried to defend herself.
The prosecution asked the witness if she was scared during the incident. She said she was. When asked why, YG said, “there was no stopping her,” referring to Ms. Ambriz. YG was also afraid that the cars would lose control on the overpass and potentially fall off.
Ms. Ambriz’s attorney, Monica Brushia from the Public Defender’s Office, then began her cross-examination of the witness.
When asked how long she has known the defendant’s husband, YG said she has known him since they were young, but they have been romantically involved for three years. She confirmed that they began their relationship when he was already married and that they were “sneaking around behind her back,” referring to the defendant.
The defense questioned YG about an encounter two years prior, when Ms. Ambriz confronted her about the affair. The witness said she told Ambriz to ask the husband, neither confirming nor denying the affair.
Regarding the moment they saw first the defendant on the day of the incident, the defense asked YG if she asked the defendant’s husband to pull over and talk to the defendant. YG said she did, but he told her he did not want the defendant to hurt her.
As she was recounting the events leading up to the collision, YG asserted that the defendant’s intention was to hurt her and the husband. Ms. Brushia asked to have the statement stricken for speculation, but Judge McAdam overruled the objection as the statement expresses the witness’ state of mind and fear during the incident.
The defense asked if the defendant’s husband braked or stopped at any time during the chase. YG said he did not brake, that the car only slowed down after they were hit the first time.
After the defendant was “contained” by her husband, YG called the police. When police arrived on the scene, YG told the officer she was driving the car. She now admits she lied to the officer because the defendant’s husband had a suspended license at the time.
The defense asked, “Are you still in a relationship with the defendant’s husband?” YG answered in the negative. When asked when the relationship ended, YG said, “Then.”
The prosecution called their second witness, Deputy Jack Schubert from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office. On the night of February 21, 2016, the officer was dispatched for a non-injury traffic collision and possible fight.
When he arrived on the scene, Deputy Schubert saw that two vehicles had collided. The passenger window was broken, the passenger door was damaged, and the bumper was loose on YG’s car.
Ms. Ambriz spoke to Deputy Schubert at the scene. She said she was behind YG’s car when the driver brake checked (tapping the brakes as if testing the brakes) twice, causing her to rear-end them both times. She said YG then attacked her and pulled her by her hair.
During cross-examination, the defense asked Deputy Schubert to talk more in depth about what Ms. Ambriz told him. According to the officer, Ambriz said both she and her husband were picking oranges on her father-in-law’s property when YG showed up and an altercation ensued. At one point, the defendant’s husband threw a beer bottle, but it was unclear why or at whom he threw the bottle.
The defendant also told the officer her vehicle lost control after rear-ending YG’s car. She claims that is why she hit YG’s car the third time.
When asked if he spoke to the defendant’s husband, Deputy Schubert said the defendant’s husband did not want to participate in the investigation.
The third witness for the prosecution was Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Morford, who spoke to the defendant’s husband briefly at the scene. According to the officer, the defendant’s husband initially told him he was in the black Ford Focus belonging to YG, but he later changed his story and seemed to not know for certain which car he was in during the incident.
He also told the officer that YG was driving when Ambriz rear-ended them, causing the car to stall and come to a stop. That is when the defendant’s truck rammed into YG’s car again.
The defense then cross-examined the Deputy Morford, asking him to elaborate on what the defendant’s husband said about the collision. The defendant’s husband first told the officer that the defendant hit the passenger side twice. She allegedly hit them once, reversed, and then ran into the car again. He then changed his story and said he was in a “tough spot,” considering the incident involved both his wife and his girlfriend.
The prosecution’s fourth and final witness was the defendant’s husband. He began by explaining that he was not romantically involved with YG on the day of the incident. Instead, he described their relationship as “friends with benefits.”
Recounting the events leading up to the incident, he said he was driving YG’s car back to the spot where he had parked his truck when he saw his wife, the defendant. He continued driving past the defendant, and the defendant began to follow them in the truck.
As Ambriz chased them, the defendant’s husband says he brake checked in an attempt to slow down because they were driving too fast. That is when, he said, the defendant rear-ended them.
Unlike YG and the officer, the defendant’s husband said the car did not stall after the initial hit. Instead, he said they started going faster. However, he said he brake checked again because they were approaching a stop sign at the other end of the bridge.
He said it seemed as if his wife had “lost it,” but he understood why, given the situation. He said he took a chance by braking, knowing the cars would get ruined, in order to slow his wife down.
At this point, he said both vehicles lost control and the truck spun around, eventually hitting the passenger side of the car where YG was sitting.
During cross-examination, the witness explained he has been married to the defendant for eight years and they have two children together. The defendant also has another child, but the defendant’s husband treats that child as his own as well.
He admitted to engaging in an ongoing relationship with YG for the past three years. The defense asked if the defendant had confronted him about the extramarital relationship before. He said she had confronted him before and he lied to her about the affair.
The defense then asked if he recalled the defendant saying she was going to “go get some fruit” the day of the incident. He said he recalls the defendant saying that, and he said he figured she would possibly go to his father’s property.
The witness said he was with YG for approximately three hours that day. They were supposed to go to Sacramento that afternoon, but he said they got into a fight and drove back to pick up his truck so he could leave.
He said he recalled getting a call from his wife that afternoon. At that point, he did not realize she was calling from his truck. When he drove to the location where he parked his truck, he saw her and, realizing he was “caught in a lie,” kept driving.
Regarding the brake check, the defendant’s husband said he braked to “scare her off of me.” He said it was “out of character” for her to drive at such a high speed in a reckless manner.
The defense asked, “She was following you, so you set the pace, correct?” The defendant’s husband answered, “Right.”
After getting rear-ended, the defendant’s husband said he made a “hard left.” This was because they were going downhill on the overpass and he wanted to avoid oncoming traffic, but also because the cars seemed to be “stuck together” after the initial hit.
When he turned left, he said he saw the truck spin and hit the passenger door. The defense emphasized that the defendant did not intentionally make a U-turn to hit YG’s car the final time, as YG alleges in her testimony.
The defendant’s husband described the subsequent confrontation between the defendant and YG as a “typical girl fight.” He said they both started the fight, as opposed to their statements blaming each other for initiating the conflict.
The two women ended up on the ground, pulling each other’s hair and hitting each other. The defendant’s husband tried to separate the two women by putting his body in between them and attempting to pry their hands from each other.
When asked why both the defendant and YG lied about the husband being the driver, he said it was not his idea for them to lie. He acknowledged that he broke the law by driving while his license was suspended.
The defendant’s husband disclosed that he is no longer living with the defendant and their children. He visits several days a week and says they are in the process of “working things out.”
The prosecution then asked the witness about a separate incident on April 13, when the defendant used her vehicle to stop someone from getting away. The defendant’s husband said he is familiar with the incident. The prosecution concluded that using a vehicle in an offensive manner is not necessarily “out of character” for the defendant, as the husband had previously stated.
The defense did not call witnesses or submit evidence. Mrs. Brushia says she is relying on the notion that it “makes sense” that a wife would go after her husband and mistress, but it does not necessarily mean she intended to hit them with her vehicle. The defense is arguing that the collision was a consequence of the husband’s brake check, which would mean Ambriz could not be held accountable for deliberate assault.
Judge McAdam, however, questioned why the defendant’s husband would tap the brakes in a small car while being chased by a truck. The judge referred to it as a “suicide mission,” while the defense said it was a “coward’s way out.”
The judge concluded the defendant’s husband is not credible, saying that his motives were conflicting and changing, referencing his apparent attempts to protect both women as well as himself.
Judge McAdam said the only way the defense could win at this point is by discrediting YG, which he could not see them doing. He asked, “What motive is there for [YG] to lie?” She is no longer involved with the defendant’s husband and she delivered her testimony calmly and straightforward, according to the judge.
Ultimately, the court held Onellia Ambriz to answer for assault with a deadly weapon in the February incident. She also faces a child endangerment charge for the April 13 incident the prosecution referenced. The preliminary hearing for that case will resume on Monday afternoon.