Hotel Surveillance Wiped in Domestic Violence Case

By Julie Maruskin and Ariana Camarena

Woodland – When trying to acquire evidence to convict the defendant for a domestic violence incident at a Ramada Hotel, Detective Ken Fellows testified that it was standard for hotel surveillance to be overridden every two weeks.

On March 5, 2017, a domestic violence incident was reported against the defendant, Gregory Preston. The incident reportedly happened at the Ramada Hotel in West Sacramento at 1 p.m. The defendant had no prior record involving domestic violence.

Deputy DA Alvina G. Tzang called her first witness to the stand. The expert witness was Officer Chantelle Nahmens, a police officer that has been with the city of West Sacramento for approximately three years. She participated in domestic violence training throughout her six-month academy training. She was also the officer on duty during the March 5 incident and took the initial report from the alleged victim.

The prosecution presented a recording of the phone call that transpired between the alleged victim and Officer Chantelle Nahmens that was not allowed to be used as evidence. In the phone call, the alleged victim explained what had happened during the domestic violence incident.

She described how the incident had started with a verbal argument where the defendant and the alleged victim were sitting on opposite ends of the room. She explained that Mr. Preston had allegedly held her down and put his left arm on her throat while punching her in the head about five or six times with his right fist. After he had gotten off of her and, as she got up, he allegedly grabbed her and took off her shirt. He then allegedly choked her with the shirt. According to the alleged victim, he put her face down into a headlock.

In response to the headlock description, the officer asked if she had lost consciousness at all during this event and the alleged victim responded that she had not. She explained that she tried to leave many times, but the defendant had allegedly restrained her during the multiple escape attempts, disallowing her from leaving.

Officer Nahmens testified to the voice recording being a fair and accurate representation of the alleged victim’s voice, what she had said on the phone call when the officer spoke with her. The officer explained that for the duration of the phone call, the alleged victim was driving to the West Sacramento Police Station to show the officer her injuries and complete the report.

During the reporting process, the police took images of the injuries that the alleged victim was claiming she sustained that day at the hotel room from the defendant, Mr. Preston. The images were submitted for evidence. Apparently, the officer testified that the alleged victim looked shaken up when at the police station.

In the first image, the expert witness testified to identifying a black eye on the alleged victim and that the first image reflected what she saw in person. This identification of the exhibits being accurate to what Officer Nahmens had seen had continued with the other five exhibits which were also images of the injuries allegedly suffered from Mr. Preston.

The second image showed the inside of the alleged victim’s arm. It was bruised all the way down the arm. The third image showed her right arm which had less and more sparse bruising. In the fourth image, it was evident there were scratches on her neck but it was harder to see that there was bruising on her neck, as well. The fifth image showed the left side of her neck and there were also scratches on that side of her neck. Lastly, in the sixth image the officer took an overall picture of the victim in the state in which she had reported the incident.

The prosecution addressed that in the officer’s report taken from the alleged victim, the she had claimed that the defendant, while restraining her, grabbed her from behind like a “bear hug.” The officer agreed that she had been told this. The prosecuting attorney claimed that there was another incident that happened a few weeks prior to March 5, 2017, which the alleged victim told the officer about. In the prior incident, the alleged victim was driving Mr. Preston to the Amtrak station when he had hit her, causing her to miss the exit on the freeway. This, however, was not reported.

During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Lisa Lance asked the witness if the alleged victim sounded shaken up on the audio, as she did when she saw her in person. The witness responded that she had. The defense attorney pointed out that there was no report on the Amtrak incident and the witness responded that the incident was not relevant to her case. The defense asked the witness if the alleged victim and defendant were at the hotel room to resolve their relationship. The witness responded that was what she had reported.

The defense attorney asked questions about the defendant supposedly restraining the alleged victim from leaving the room. She asked if the alleged victim reported the door being blocked. The witness responded that she had not. The defense asked if any neighboring hotel guests had called the police or whether or not any complaints were made about the noises of yelling, screaming, and a chair being thrown. The officer responded that she had no record of such complaints or calls.
The witness explained she was told that the alleged victim had changed her number when the defense attorney asked about the defendant’s and the alleged victim’s contact after the incident – however, she had emailed Mr. Preston.

The defense ended their cross by asking if the officer observed any surveillance or interview any of the hotel guests. The officer responded that she had not, however, when responding to the prosecutor after the defense attorney’s questioning, the prosecutor pointed out that the witness only had the duty of taking the initial report, rather than investigating evidence. After the prosecution’s questioning was completed, the witness was dismissed, subject to recall. The court took a long recess.

The second witness to be called was Detective Ken Fellows, who was assigned to do further investigation and follow-up on the domestic violence incident.

Detective Fellows went to the scene of the alleged incident to obtain any additional information. When arriving at the Ramada in West Sacramento, Detective Fellows verified Mr. Preston’s stay and proceeded to attempt to gather further evidence.

Detective Fellows testified that he could not acquire video surveillance due to the fact that the hotel’s surveillance is overridden every two weeks. He stated that he was assigned the case one month after the alleged incident. Detective Fellows also testified that nothing was reported in regard to damage to the room or other noise complaints from the alleged incident.

On April 19, 2017, Detective Fellows spoke to the alleged victim in Placerville, where he took a complete statement. He testified that she did not go into detail regarding how the defendant attempted to prevent her from leaving the hotel room. He testified that she told him about the Red Hawk Casino incident, a separate incident from the alleged Ramada Hotel incident.

Prior to March 5, the defendant and the alleged victim went to the casino when he got angry, allegedly hit the dashboard, threw his wallet and began strangling her with his hands. Detective Fellows testified that the alleged victim stated that she had used meth and Mr. Preston did not.

Detective Fellows testified that the alleged victim stated that the defendant only uses marijuana and hash.

The first witness is subject to recall and the trial is expected to take three additional days.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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