New details emerged Tuesday at a preliminary hearing about the traffic incident that allegedly sparked a case of road rage that resulted in the death of a Hilmar man, as well as the defendant’s history of anger management.
Michael Hoyt of Turlock is charged with the murder of Kenneth Winter. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has accused Hoyt of beating Winter so severely during a February 2010 altercation that it caused fatal injuries to the 67-year-old man.
In the third day of testimony at Hoyt’s preliminary hearing, Stanislaus County Sheriff Detective Darwin Hatfield testified about his interview with Hoyt, in which Hoyt described his actions as being those of self-defense.
Hatfield testified that Hoyt told him the incident started when Winter ran a posted stop sign and almost hit Hoyt, who was in the process of turning onto Paulson Road. Hoyt said he was cut-off by Winter and that he honked his horn at him.
Hatfield testified that Hoyt told him he slowed his vehicle down to create some distance between the two vehicles, but that Winter also slowed down. In his statement to the investigator, Hoyt said he decided to pass Winter and that when he was doing so, Winter swerved his truck at him, almost forcing Hoyt off the road before he was able to get in front of Winter’s truck.
Hoyt then told the investigator he stopped his vehicle and got out to tell the other driver how “disgusted” he was by his driving. Hoyt told Hatfield that Winter also got out of his vehicle and approached him.
Hatfield testified that he was told by Hoyt that it was Winter who threw the first punch and that it landed on Hoyt’s left cheek and caused him to fall to the ground. Hatfield stated during his testimony that he saw no injury to Hoyt’s face and that Hoyt did not ask for medical attention.
In his statement to the investigator, Hoyt said that he believed Winter was drunk and that he fell to the ground when he hit Hoyt.
Hoyt told the investigator that at one point they were both on the ground and that Winter was flailing his arms around, so he held him down by the neck and hit him about 10 times in the back.
On cross-examination, Hatfield testified that Hoyt never said he hit Winter with full on punches.
Hatfield also testified that Hoyt told him the majority of the altercation happened closer to Hoyt’s vehicle than Winter’s, which was consistent with the evidence.
During his testimony Hatfield said that Hoyt told him about having anger management issues and that he was currently taking anger management classes and medication that helped him stay calm.
As Hatfield made this statement, Hoyt, who was sitting at the defense table, started shaking his head back and forth. Defense attorney Frank Carson argued that his client never said he was currently dealing with anger management issues, but Hatfield responded that he remembered Hoyt saying it was currently.
Hatfield testified that it was a worker at Phoenix Container, owned by Hoyt, who first alerted law enforcement to Hoyt’s involvement in the altercation. He testified that the worker told him she had seen Hoyt come in with blood on his clothes and that she overheard him say he had hit someone. During cross-examination Hatfield stated he later learned this employee wasn’t actually at the work site that day. He also learned that Hoyt told an individual at the company that he had been in an altercation down the road.
Hatfield said investigators learned of Hoyt’s address and when they went to speak to him they found him wearing pants that had blood on them and also took possession of tennis shoes with drops of blood on them.
The preliminary hearing had gotten underway last week, but was abruptly continued when the defense said they had been given new evidence that needed to be reviewed.
That new evidence turned out to be the treatment records from the hospital where Winter was taken after the fight and where he later died. Carson pointed out to Hatfield that someone believed it was Winter’s son who was responsible for the injuries and this observation was noted in the hospital’s report.
During the day’s proceedings Carson called on a pathologist from San Joaquin County to offer up possible explanations for Winter’s injuries.
Dr. Robert Lawrence said some of Winter’s bruising could have been that of a common skin condition seen in the elderly and that Winter’s bad heart could have been a contributing factor in his death.
During cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson, Lawrence stated the cause of death was definitely blunt force trauma and that Winter’s spleen injury, could not have been caused by a fall to the ground.
The hearing is scheduled to resume today.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.