Charges against woman accused of killing a Caltrans worker
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno woman accused of killing a Caltrans worker in a construction zone last summer will head to trial for murder.
This came after a Fresno County judge found that there is enough evidence in the case against 27-year-old Alyssa Villanueva.
Villanueva is accused of killing Regan Johnson of Reedley, while she worked on a re paving project on Highway 99 near Clinton Avenue.
Villanueva sobbed inside a Fresno County courtroom Friday as Judge Jonathan Conklin explained, while a sobriety test done the day after the alleged hit-and-run-crash found no evidence of alcohol use, a recorded interview with the defendant's friend could be found "significant" in the case against her.
"She describes her as "intoxicated," "really drunk" and then she says because of the way she is talking, and then she adds, "In the way in like because I drank with her before," said Conklin.
That friend, Vanessa Ortega, was accused of being a "hostile witness," Thursday, after she admitted on the stand she didn't want to testify and repeated the same three word answer to attorneys questions.
"I do not recall," said Ortega.
On the tape, Judge Conklin pointed out Ortega said it was 1:55 a.m. when she told Villanueva to stay at her house and that Villanueva told her she had to leave because her husband needed the car to go to work.
"Ms. Ortega claims at that time, I was telling her she was too drunk to drive, I'll call a 'We Be Sober," said Conklin.
During questioning of a CHP officer, the defense pointed out investigators were not able to collect any receipts from the bars Villanueva was said to have visited, and at least one bartender couldn't remember serving her any drinks.
"The driving in this case is not necessarily indicative of someone who is impaired. Often times this type of driving can result in someone who may have been ill or asleep at the wheel," said Defense Attorney Martin Taleisnik.
Prosecutors argued Villanueva knocked over cones to enter a construction zone on Highway 99 when she struck and killed Regan Johnson.
Attorney Ron Wells said she's well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving and had a previous conviction in 2010.
"I think it was an attempt by the defense to somehow minimize the element of knowledge what drinking and driving can lead to and I think the quote was, "I know how horrible it feels," he said.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Villanueva said during a First Offender Program at Kings View Behavioral Health, her own father was killed by a drunk driver.
"Going through the documents, in a group discussion, she had relayed her father had been hit by a drunk driver in a hit and run traffic collision," said the officer.
Judge Conklin said Villanueva had also signed a document following her conviction three years ago, stating she could be charged with murder if she was involved in a drunk driving collision resulting in someone's death.
Villanueva is scheduled to be arraigned on July 19. She faces charges of murder, hit-and-run DUI and vehicular manslaughter.
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