South Bay News

Witness testifies in SJ double-murder case

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A witness in the double-murder trial of Armando Suazo Ochoa testified Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court that he saw "some people flying into the air" when Ochoa struck three pedestrians with his SUV next to Hillview Park in San Jose in 2008.

Mario Moran testified that, moments before the horrific accident, which killed Aproniano Siruno, 71, and Rodolfo Escurial, 67, Ochoa had yelled obscenities at Moran's friends who had gathered to play soccer at Hillview Park, threatened to kill them and then drove onto a street bordering the park.

Seconds after Ochoa steered his Chevrolet Suburban SUV onto Alfred Way, Moran said he heard "a loud noise like an explosion."

"I lifted my head and I saw people flying in the air," said Moran, speaking through a Spanish language interpreter.

"It was like when you are there and you are so afraid you cannot move," Moran said. "I saw those people flying in the air and saw them fall down, and the Suburban was going over the sidewalk."

He said he ran toward the victims to see what had happened.

"When I got there, there were three bodies strewn around ... all of them were not moving. But about five minutes later, one of them got up on his knees," Moran said.

During a cross examination by Ochoa's defense attorney Ingo Brauer, Moran, who is employed as a professional driver, said Spanish is his native language, that he speaks only a little bit of English, did not have an interpreter when he spoke to San Jose police after the accident, and did not recall the questions police asked of him.

Moran, in response to Brauer's questions, also said that before the accident Ochoa appeared agitated, was swinging his arms, left the door to the Suburban open while loud music played inside, drove his vehicle in a circle in the parking lot and ran over a barrier before driving away.

Ochoa, 49, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for an alleged drunken rampage the morning of Sept. 14, 2008, when the prosecution claims he drove his SUV onto the sidewalk on purpose to hit three men taking a Sunday morning walk.

At about 8:45 a.m. that day, Siruno was walking with Escurial and Esteban Casiano, 73, at the corner of Berona and Alfred ways when Ochoa allegedly aimed his car at them, accelerated to about 34 miles per hour and slammed into them, according to Deputy District Attorney Dan Fehderau.

Siruno was pronounced dead at the scene, while Escurial died three weeks later in a hospital. Casiano was seriously injured, but survived.

Brauer said in his opening statement on Monday that the deaths were the result of a tragic accident and that Ochoa suffers from a brain condition that causes blackouts, vision problems and irrational behavior.

One of the defense witnesses, Dr. Knut Wester, a neurosurgeon from Norway, will testify that the presence of an arachnoid cyst in Ochoa's brain influenced the defendant's behavior and memory at the time of the deadly incident, Brauer said.

The attorney acknowledged that Ochoa was also under the influence of alcohol and had cocaine in his system that day.

Fehderau told the jury that after hitting the victims, Ochoa allegedly had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25, more than three times the legal limit.

Ochoa also had four previous DUI convictions from 1985 to 1993, was once convicted of hit-and-run, and received 10 speeding citations from 1997 to 2007, Fehderau said.

The trial, which resumed today, is expected to last until mid-January.

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