12.20.2007

ER - Two witnesses testify in alleged homicide hearing

Two witnesses testify in alleged homicide hearing
by Emily Wilson, The Eureka Reporter, 12/20/2007

Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Allan Dollison presented two new witnesses at the preliminary hearing for homicide suspect Yohan Jose Lopez.

The hearing continued Wednesday in the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka. Lopez is accused of killing Ryan Dunn nearly 10 years ago.

The prosecution presented ballistic evidence that it believes will lead to Lopez’s conviction.

“We believe there were two weapons involved,” Dollison said.

When bullets are fired, distinct markings are left on the casings. The casings found at the crime scene had markings from two different weapons.

Judge J. Michael Brown presided as public defender Jonathan McCrone cross-examined former Eureka Police Department Investigator David Parris, who led the investigation in 1998
Parris is currently employed by the Yurok Tribal Police Department and testified on Tuesday.

“Dunn was known to deal (in) drugs,” he alleged.

“And he was known to carry a concealed weapon?” McCrone asked.
“Yes,” Parris replied, adding that he could not rule out that Dunn may have been carrying a weapon the night he died.

McCrone said a stolen pistol, two bullet-proof vests and a shoulder holster were found in Dunn’s apartment.

But Parris said that based upon the analysis of the scene, there was no evidence of return fire.

A gunshot residue test performed on Dunn’s body to declare if he fired a gun that night came back negative, Parris said. However, the GSR test does not rule out the possibility that Dunn was carrying a gun.

The next witness called to the stand was former EPD Detective Kenneth McCauley. He investigated the shooting in 1998 under the supervision of Parris.

Based upon court testimony Wednesday, McCauley said he interviewed a neighbor witness the night of the homicide. The woman told McCauley that she stepped onto her porch shortly after she heard gunshots and saw a car park in front of her house. She told the detective that three Hispanic men in their late teens got out and ran down the street. From about 20 feet away, one of them turned and looked at her.

It is unknown if her porch light was on, but McCauley said there was a street light less than 20 feet from her house.

Hours later, at approximately 1 a.m., she was shown a picture line-up with five faces that resembled Lopez. She identified Lopez in the line-up as the man who looked at her.

Humboldt State University Police Department Lt. Lynne Soderberg was the final witness to testify. She worked on the homicide case as a detective in the EPD Criminal Investigation Unit under the supervision of Parris.

A neighbor witness told Soderberg that he saw a male running down the street away from the crime scene. A car pulled up and the man got in. Down the street the car stopped and another man, who was running, got in.

Soderberg testified that she returned a call on Jan. 6, 1998, to a woman who claimed to know Lopez for several months preceding Dunn’s homicide. The woman said she also knew Dunn and indicated that he and Lopez did not get along.

She told Soderberg that during a conversation with Lopez a month prior to the homicide he said, “They’re just going to get it,” referring to Dunn and his brother. Soderberg read from her report that the witness told her Lopez also said, “They just better know they’re dead. ... They’ll be easy to hit off; we’ll catch them slipping.”

However incriminating the statements may be, the threats are hearsay and common among crime rings, Soderberg admitted.

DA Investigator Mike Stone was present. He is responsible for follow-up investigations that may be needed for the case and works in conjunction with EPD Senior Supervising Investigator Niel Hubbard. Hubbard sat at Dollison’s side at the hearing.

Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Dixon took notes on the proceeding to assist McCrone in preparing the defense. Today is the final day of the hearing.

Brown will decide to dismiss the case or schedule a second arraignment, which will serve as an informational hearing and take place within 15 days.

A trial will then be scheduled within 60 days unless Lopez waives that right. It is possible the case will take a long time because witnesses have moved out of the area since the homicide 10 years ago, Dollison said.

Timeline of events for alleged homicide suspect

+ Jan. 4, 1998 — Eureka resident Ryan Dunn, 18, was shot and killed in front of Figueiredo’s Video Movies store on West Harris Street in Eureka.

+ Feb. 2, 1998 — Yohan Lopez is accused of murder and allegedly flees town.

+ April 3, 1998 — Yohan’s brother, Santiago Lopez, is accused of being an accessory to murder and allegedly flees town.

+ January 1998 — Santiago Lopez pleads guilty to accessory to murder charges and serves a two-year sentence.

+ Oct. 28, 2007 — Yohan Lopez is arrested by the California Highway Patrol in Stanislaus County and gives a fake name. He makes bail before the results of his fingerprints come back. However, he is arrested at the impound lot attempting to retrieve his vehicle.

+ Nov. 8, 2007 — An arraignment takes place to advise Yohan Lopez of charges, appoint an attorney, and enter a plea.

+ Dec. 18-20, 2007 — A preliminary hearing takes place for Yohan Lopez to establish if there’s enough evidence to warrant a trial.

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