Strangulation and Stolen Vehicles

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By Arianna Medina

Woodland – The defendant, a man named Hipolito Barraza, was charged with one count of felony theft or unauthorized use of a vehicle and one count of felony corporal injury. In today’s preliminary hearing, officer testimony revealed how the alleged victim, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend, was too afraid to report the incident, fearing Mr. Barraza would “come after her.” Officer testimony further revealed the victim’s injuries show signs of strangulation and extensive bruising.

In the case of the domestic violence and corporal injury charges, the state called its first witness, Officer Louis Esway of the West Sacramento Police Department. According to his testimony, on October 8, 2019, he was dispatched to a hospital in Fairfield at approximately 8:49 p.m. There he met with the alleged victim after a mandated reporter called in the incident. Officer Esway testified he knows the alleged victim from a previous incident he responded to back in March.

According to his testimony, the night of October 8 at the hospital the alleged victim told him that she was assaulted by her boyfriend in the car in West Sacramento the day prior on October 7. According to the alleged victim, they had been together for two years. The alleged victim claimed they were driving and Mr. Barraza stopped 12 times and allegedly pulled her hair, struck her with his fist, and put his hand around her throat and strangled her. Officer Esway testified that he did notice marks on the victim’s neck and arms, and noticed bruising on her throat area. He further testified that her eyes were bruised blue and purple, and her legs and back also had bruising.

Officer Esway further testified that the alleged victim was not detailed during her statement. She testified she was too afraid to report incidents because her boyfriend threatened to retaliate and come after her. The state then introduced photographs of the alleged victim’s injuries. Officer Esway testified to taking these pictures and confirmed they were of injuries sustained to the victim’s neck, left arm, and left side of her face.

The officer further testified that the victim was wearing sunglasses when they first met and when he asked her to remove them, that is when he saw the bruising on her face and eyes. The officer claimed the victim did not name Mr. Barraza at first because she was scared of retaliation. Officer Esway further testified that he has had the training to identify symptoms of strangulation, such as a raspy voice and bruising, and testified that when he attempted to show the victim a picture of the defendant, she refused to look at it. Officer Esway claimed to have asked the alleged victim directly if the defendant had been her boyfriend, but that she neither confirmed nor denied it.

When the defense was allowed to cross-examine the witness they asked if the alleged victim explicitly ID’d the defendant and whether she ever mentioned that she and the defendant were in an exclusive, dating relationship. Officer Esway testified that the victim never explicitly ID’d the defendant and never mentioned they were in an exclusive relationship. He also testified that there were no other witnesses and he could not identify any injuries on the defendant’s hands or body that would indicate a struggle.

The state’s second witness was Officer Hector Torres of the West Sacramento Police Department. He testified that on October 9, 2019, he responded to a vehicle stop and identified the alleged victim in the car with the defendant. Officer Torres also testified that he noticed injuries on the victim’s face and dark bruises around her eyes. He claimed he spoke with the defendant about their relationship, and Mr. Barraza claimed that they had been together for two years. When the defense was allowed to cross-examine this witness, they questioned whether the alleged victim ever mentioned she was afraid of her boyfriend when the vehicle stopped. Officer Torres testified no, and also claimed he did not notice any injuries on the defendant’s hands or body.

In the matter of the stolen vehicle charges, the state called Officer Hector Torres again, who testified that on October 9, 2019, he was responding to a stolen vehicle call near West Capitol Avenue. He claimed he waited for backup officers and, when backup arrived, they apprehended the defendant and the alleged victim was in the passenger seat of the car. He testified that when the keys were removed from the ignition, he noticed the teeth part of the keys was twisted and that there were other keys on the defendant’s key ring. Officer Torres claimed the teeth of those keys were also shaved down and discolored.

He further testified that when he spoke to the rightful owner of the vehicle, he claimed no one else had permission to be using it. Officer Torres claimed the owner of the vehicle did not know the defendant or the alleged victim, and testified to having researched the value of the stolen vehicle on Kelley Blue Book.

When allowed to cross-examine the witness, the defense asked if the key that was in the ignition had been shaved, to which Officer Torres replied no. The defense also asked about the condition of the vehicle and the officer testified that it was in “fair to good” condition.

The state called its second witness, another West Sacramento police officer, who testified that he responded to the traffic stop call on October 9 on West Capitol Ave. The officer identified the defendant as the driver of the vehicle and testified he was the officer who took the keys out of the ignition. He also testified to identifying a suspicious red and black shoulder bag in the vehicle.

When allowed to cross-examine, the defense asked if the victim ever directly stated she was in a relationship with the defendant. The officer testified the alleged victim would make glances at him but would neither confirm nor disagree that she was in a relationship with Mr. Barraza.

In closing arguments, the state reserved but the defense went on to re-argue how the victim never explicitly ID’d the defendant as her boyfriend/assailant and that the officers could not notice any scrapes or bruising on the defendant’s hands that would indicate a fight.

The court, however, ruled there is enough circumstantial evidence to hold the defendant to answer for both charges and there will be an OR hearing on Thursday, October 31, at 9:00 in the morning and the arraignment will be November 12 at 9:00 a.m.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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