By Danielle Silva
A man allegedly cut through multiple lanes of traffic after his ex-fiancée called 911, ending an argument-filled car ride from Reno with a child in the back seat.
Michael Poe is charged with the felonies of dissuading a witness or victim, corporal injury, and a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child. In April of 2019, Mr. Poe had been driving with the alleged victims, his then-fiancée and her child. They had been driving to check out a law school and, during the drive, allegedly engaged in a series of arguments leading to their breaking off the engagement. The ex-fiancée called 911 and the defendant attempted to get rid of her phone and then allegedly hit her as he swerved off the road. The defendant and the child exited the car and, as the ex-fiancée answered another call on her phone, Mr. Poe allegedly told her to hang up as he approached her child. The woman hung up, going to her child and waving down a police vehicle driving by.
The ex-fiancée testified first. She had been in a three-year relationship with the defendant and she and her child were living with him in Fontana, California. The witness stated she had a good relationship with him and he often drove her child to school and other activities. She claimed that the defendant often believed she sided with her daughter more than with him in arguments, and they argued more often near the end of their relationship.
She stated that in April of 2019 she and the defendant had finished attending the child’s sports tournament and had been, with the child seated in the back, driving down to San Francisco to visit the University of California, Hastings School of Law, as the witness was looking into law schools at the time. During the drive, the witness and Mr. Poe argued.
The witness believed the defendant was upset because they had switched to a better hotel during the tournament and the new room had only one bed available. The witness didn’t want the defendant to sleep in the same bed as her child. Since the child wanted to sleep in the same bed as the witness, Mr. Poe ended up sleeping on a pull-out cot.
On the day of the incident, the defendant drove the car as they went to get breakfast before heading down to San Francisco. The child and defendant disagreed as to where to eat breakfast, with the witness deciding on IHOP, which was the child’s choice. She stated she always let the minor choose where to eat after tournaments.
During the drive to the IHOP, the defendant and the witness argued. She allegedly told him first that they were incompatible. He then allegedly demanded the engagement ring back from her, which she gave to him. Mr. Poe stayed in the car as the witness and her child went to eat breakfast.
The two returned to the car with the child sitting in the back. Mr. Poe and witness began to argue again, with the witness allegedly telling him not to argue while her child was in the car. Eventually, the witness decided not to say anything, which made the defendant madder. He allegedly punched the steering wheel and blared music from the radio. The witness was comforting her child through texts at the time.
After an hour, the yelling calmed down. A Zales commercial then played on the radio.
“‘Buy her a diamond ring and she’ll love you forever’,” the ex-fiancée quoted.
Mr. Poe allegedly began to yell again. The child texted the witness, requesting to use the restroom. The ex-fiancée told the defendant to pull over. She said he then swerved through several lanes toward a gas station. The witness and child went to the restroom to calm down, with the witness beginning to text her friend about what was going on, but she was unsure where she was as she wasn’t familiar with the area. The witness and child returned to the car and the defendant began the drive back out.
The witness testified to texting her friend and wanting to share her location to potentially be picked up. The defendant asked if she was texting her friends about breaking off the engagement, before allegedly rolling down his window, grabbing her phone with his right hand and holding his arm up to throw it out the window. The witness claimed she caught his arm and prevented him from throwing it out, and his closed left fist allegedly hit her on the left side of her face.
As she got her phone back, her child came forward to help. The witness turned to the back of the car to calm the child down, but the defendant allegedly kept hitting her. She wasn’t sure which hands the defendant hit her with or how many times, but she stated he drove off the road and through several lanes of traffic to a dirt road. The blows, she said, made contact with the side of her neck. She stated she did not hit him back, only holding up an arm to protect herself.
She said the whole physical altercation was four to five minutes long.
The witness claimed she called 911 when the defendant grabbed her phone again and threw it on the floorboard.
As the car came to a stop, the child ran out of the car. The defendant also left the car. The witness noticed her phone ring again and answered it, expecting it to be 911. As she tried to speak with them, the defendant allegedly grabbed her daughter and told her to hang up the phone. The witness hung up the phone and ran to her daughter.
As they were outside the car, the witness noticed an officer driving by and waved. The officer came to them the child ran up to one and stated, “He’s hitting my mom.” The officer said he was driving back to the station and that this was not their jurisdiction. So a second group of officers came, including officers from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office.
The witness stated that she gave a statement to the officers separate from her child, and didn’t know what the child said. After the event, she told the minor to forget the event until a few weeks before they were subpoenaed to testify in court. At that time, the witness only told her daughter they were going to talk about the incident and did not direct her to testify anything specific about the incident.
In her statement to the police, the witness noted that the windshield was cracked. The defendant claimed she did it but she had no recollection as to who could have done it. Additionally, she had not looked at herself in the mirror until the officer pointed out she had a “knot” on her forehead, near the hairline and above her left eye. She also noted two red marks on her neck. The witness stated no further injuries developed after the event when she and her child arrived in San Francisco.
The witness stated that she had had only one other physical altercation, with the defendant in her bedroom. They had argued about breaking off the engagement and, when the defendant demanded the ring back, she told him no. Mr. Poe then grabbed her and threw her on the bed, placing her in an armlock as he tried to take off the ring. The witness bit the defendant’s shoulder to make him let go. The child was in the house at the time. She claimed she has not hit him in any other instance during their relationship.
The witness also noted that they did have a break in their relationship after the defendant cheated on her with another girl. Following that, however, they did get back together. In addition, she stated she had gone to the defendant’s family for a Christmas and they had scolded her for going out to call her child.
After the events, the witness filed a restraining order and Mr. Poe’s family picked up some of his belongings but not the car. She later received a call from the jail that the defendant had been released from custody and she heard someone taking the car. As the vehicle was being driven away, she believed she saw the defendant behind the wheel. The witness signed a document stating the defendant broke the restraining order, though the individual driving could have been the defendant’s brother.
The child was the next one to testify, elaborating on some details. The minor was unaware if Mr. Poe wanted to go to the IHOP and affirmed the mother took her ring off before going into the restaurant. The child also stated that the defendant was driving fast, swerving, yelling, and pounding the steering wheel.
The minor testified that the defendant held the mother’s phone outside of the window after grabbing it from the mother. He then, she said, dropped it at his feet and her mother moved to pick it up. The child also said she saw the defendant hit her mother two to four times with a fist, with the mother only holding up her arm to protect herself. They swerved off the road at that time.
As the car came to a stop, the minor ran out of the car. Mr. Poe allegedly went to the outside of the car to look at the windshield. The child saw her mother on the phone. The defendant then yelled something at the mother, still in the car, before pushing the minor, not too soft or hard, and standing in front of the child.
The second witness also testified to seeing the incident in the bedroom, as the doors to their rooms were facing each other.
The third witness was Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy David Reeves. He testified to being one of the second group of officers who arrived on the scene. He was receiving training when they were told of the incident. He said when he arrived he saw the defendant clenching his hands in fists and rubbing his face with the inside of the clenched palms. The deputy testified the defendant’s face appeared redder after the rubbing.