In an effort to disprove the murder charge looming over him, Michael Hoyt took the stand Tuesday to tell the jury his recollection of the altercation on a rural Turlock road on Feb. 1, 2010, that ultimately ended in the death of Kenneth Winter.
Hoyt is facing a second-degree murder charge for the death of 67-year-old Winter. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office case against Hoyt alleges he was so upset over a traffic incident on Paulson Road with Winter that he severely beat the elderly man and caused his spleen to rupture, which led to Winter’s death hours later at Emanuel Medical Center. The defense claims it was Winter who was the aggressor in the altercation and that Hoyt acted in self-defense.
For the first time on Tuesday Hoyt publically recounted his encounter with Winter, whom he described as “a wild man.”
Hoyt testified Winter ran a stop sign at Paulson and that he had to jerk his truck out of the road, or he would have been hit. Hoyt said Winter honked his horn at him and “flipped him off with intensity.” According to Hoyt, Winter’s truck was in front of his and Winter was traveling at an estimated 5 mph and repeatedly tapping his brakes.
He testified he tried to pass Winter, but that Winter veered his truck into his lane, forcing Hoyt to fall back.
“I just kind of backed off to see what was going on,” Hoyt said.
Eventually, Hoyt said he decided to try passing Winter again, and this time he was successful, even though he said Winter almost ran him off the road in the process.
Once in front of Winter, Hoyt said he pulled his truck off to the side of the road because he wanted to “see what was going on” with Winter.
Hoyt testified he pulled his truck over to the side of the road so that the passenger side tires were on the dirt shoulder. He said his truck did not impede traffic on either side and that Winter stopped his truck behind him. Three other witnesses have testified they saw Winter’s truck stopped in the middle of the road, or just off to the side of the center line.
Hoyt said he saw Winter approaching him at a rapid pace and remarked to him that he had run a stop sign. Hoyt then described Winter as “catapulting himself” at Hoyt and bringing up a left hook that glanced off Hoyt’s chin as he pulled his head back.
Hoyt said both of them lost their balance and fell to the ground and that when Winter got up again he had blood coming from his nose and mouth.
“He started swinging at me like a wild man,” Hoyt said. “Both hands were going like a windmill.”
Hoyt testified Winter struck him around 10 times in the area between his neck and waist and that Winter, “hit like a brick wall.”
In Hoyt’s recollection of the altercation, he tried to stop Winter from hitting him by getting him in a bear hug, but that Winter was still able to hit him, so he grabbed him by the back of his neck with one hand and hit him around 10 times in the lower back on the right side with the palm side of his fist.
“I asked him if he was done and he said ‘I think I am.’”
Hoyt said he let go of Winter, who stood up and then fell back against Hoyt’s truck and struck his head on the pavement. Hoyt said he helped Winter up and then decided to leave when his girlfriend said Winter could have a gun.
Around that time Brooke Soares was pulling up to the scene and asking what was going on. Hoyt testified he never saw Soares get out of her vehicle.
When questioned by his defense attorney Frank Carson as to why he would engage in a fight with Winter, Hoyt replied his intention was to stop Winter from hitting him and that if he didn’t do so, Winter would “severely hurt him.”
Hoyt testified it took a lot of strength to fight off Winter, but under questioning from the prosecutor, he said he hit Winter with a “small amount of force.”
Under cross-examination Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson immediately went to work on undermining Hoyt’s credibility, specifically trying to poke holes in Hoyt’s recollections.
Emerson pointed to Hoyt’s claim that he left because he was afraid Winter might have a gun in his truck and why that concern didn’t seem to faze him when he initially pulled his truck over to confront Winter about his driving.
“So, obviously at that point you didn’t think he had a gun?” Emerson asked.
“No,” Hoyt replied.
Hoyt testified he was injured in the altercation with Winter, sustaining injuries to his hand, chest and knees. However, Emerson questioned him at length as to why he never told investigators he was hurt or why he didn’t tell jail staff he had suffered injuries when taken into custody. Hoyt testified he didn’t remember ever being asked about his injuries and that he “didn’t think it was important.”
Emerson also questioned Hoyt as to why he never contacted law enforcement after the altercation, especially when he saw the numerous patrol vehicles in the area of Paulson Road.
“I didn’t think it could have anything to do with us,” Hoyt said. “It never crossed my mind.”
Emerson suggested Hoyt had an employee drive him home because he was concerned a witness had given law enforcement a description of his truck, a claim Hoyt denied.
“Isn’t it true you left because a witness was driving up?” Emerson asked.
“That is not true,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt is scheduled to be on the stand again today and the case is expected to be given to the jury by the end of the week.