By Alana Mockler
Yesterday the preliminary hearing for Jose Santana Leyva reconvened in Department 11 with the testimony of two Woodland police witnesses, Officers Greg Ford and Brian Olson. Leyva is charged with felony hit and run following a collision on October 20, 2017, just after midnight, in which a vehicle heading westbound in an eastbound lane collided head on with an eastbound vehicle. The crash did not cause any fatalities, but passengers in both vehicles were injured.
The prosecution alleges Mr. Leyva was driving the vehicle, identified as an Acura, westbound in the eastbound lane; the vehicle hit was identified as a Toyota Tercel.
Following the collision, Officer Ford testified that he spoke to the passengers in both vehicles, observing that the young woman being extracted by firemen from the right rear of the Acura was bleeding from her nose and had sustained other injuries. During Officer Olson’s testimony he described visiting the driver of the Tercel at the UC Davis hospital in Sacramento, where he was being treated for a broken wrist, broken ankle, multiple broken ribs, and internal bleeding. In response to a question by the defense, Officer Ford affirmed that the Acura had been totaled in the collision.
The driver of the Acura could not be identified at the scene of the collision because occupants had fled the vehicle. Officer Ford spoke to a fireman at the scene who alleged he saw three people – described as a Hispanic male and two Hispanic females in their twenties – exit the Acura and run toward a nearby cemetery.
Officer Ford testified that he used the Acura’s license number to find out the name the vehicle was registered under, which was that of the defendant’s mother. Officer Ford said he called a landline number listed under Ms. Leyva’s name at 4:30 AM, which was answered by a female who did not want to identify herself, though she answered to Ms. Leyva’s name. The woman was informed that her vehicle was likely stolen and been involved in a collision, and she was advised that she “should not lie” if she knew her son had been driving the vehicle earlier. Subsequently, a man that Officer Ford believed to be Ms. Leyva’s husband and the defendant’s father also spoke on the phone. The man said the defendant did not drive the vehicle earlier that day, although the woman was uncertain.
In his testimony, Officer Ford was questioned by the prosecution and defense as to his expertise on the subject of major collisions. Officer Ford said that he had completed a 40-hour training on traffic collisions, which he said he uses daily, while the major collision department itself is headed by someone else. Officer Ford described seeing skid marks, debris and an indentation in the asphalt, among other clues, which he used to conclude that the Acura had allegedly veered into the improper lane, causing the crash.
Officer Olson testified that he had spoken to the man who had been driving the Tercel vehicle, who claimed that he had seen the other vehicle coming in his lane and he had swerved, but the vehicle struck him, and he saw three people fleeing from the other vehicle, one male and two females. Officer Olson also spoke to the woman in the Acura vehicle, who claimed that a friend had arranged for the driver to pick her up and that she didn’t know him (the driver).
Officer Ford testified that 70 minutes prior to the collision, a related police dispatch had gone out about a theft at 7-Eleven on East Main Street, one and a half miles from the collision. It was reported by an employee at 7-Eleven that two young women had made a “beer run” on the store, which was confirmed by video footage of the woman stealing the beer. Later, a case of Corona beer was found in the trunk of the Acura involved in the collision, which matched the description of the beer stolen.
In her interview with Officer Olson, the young woman extracted from the Acura said that they had stopped at 7-Eleven, first claiming that she had bought an iced tea, and then admitting to stealing the Corona with another young woman in the vehicle. Officer Olson testified that from the surveillance footage of the theft at 7-Eleven he was able to identify the woman from the collision, which he told her in their interview.
Officer Olson also spoke to the other woman identified in the theft, who admitted to the beer run but denied involvement in the collision. Officer Olson relayed that she said her cousin had picked her up, then she had stolen the beer with the other woman, after which she said she was dropped off before the collision occurred.
When Officer Olson began to testify about the defendant, he was asked by the prosecution to identify Mr. Leyva in the courtroom. What followed was an awkward pause after which Officer Olson pointed to the defendant across the floor, identifying his black shirt.
As to his contact with Mr. Leyva after the collision, Officer Olson described visiting the defendant at his job at a pizza restaurant, during which Officer Olson did not arrest Mr. Leyva and claimed to make no “show of force.” Mr. Leyva told Officer Olson that he didn’t know about the collision and had been asleep at his parents’ house when it happened. Mr Leyva had also said that he could identify the Acura as his parents’ – but when asked if he had ever driven the vehicle, he said he was not licensed.
The mother of the defendant, in her interview with Officer Olson, said that she did not know who was driving the vehicle at the time. She told Officer Olson that she had parked the vehicle on the street outside her apartment the night before and accidentally left the keys in the car. Ms. Leyva claims she did not know the vehicle was gone until the police communicated with her that her vehicle might have been stolen. She also said that another adult who lives in Woodland and is close to the family had been allowed to use the vehicle before.
The witness testimony of the Officer Olson ended with a review of the DNA samples that had been collected from the Acura. The Woodland police received a search warrant for the Acura to collect blood samples from inside the vehicle, and they also took samples from the outside. Key areas where blood samples were collected were the driver’s door, trunk, and the driver’s seat airbag. A buccal, or oral swab, was also obtained from the defendant.
The results from an analysis by the Bureau of Forensic Services at the DOJ, which compared the blood from the driver’s seat airbag and the oral swab from the defendant, found that there was a very strong match between the two. The test used to analyze the DNA was a “Short Tandem Repeat” (STR) test, which Officer Olson lauded as having a less than one in a million margin for error and being accepted by the scientific community for over 20 years.
The defense asked Officer Olson if, when the passengers fled the Acura, it was possible that in the chaos and with so many people exiting at once that they all “touched everything” in the car. Officer Olson hesitated before replying it was “possible.”
At the end of the witness testimonies of the two policemen, Judge Timothy L. Fall determined there to be sufficient evidence for arraignment, which is set for June 18.