The preliminary hearing for the man accused of beating to death an elderly man in an incident of road rage got underway Monday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Michael Hoyt of Turlock is accused of murder in the death of 67-year-old Kenneth Winter of Hilmar. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office contends Hoyt beat Winter to death because he was angry over a traffic incident.
According to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department investigation, Hoyt was angered over a traffic incident involving Winter that occurred Feb. 1, 2010 in Turlock. The charges against Hoyt allege that he pulled Winter from his truck on Paulson Road and beat him severely before leaving the scene. Winter was taken to Emanuel Medical Center where he died from his injuries.
The prosecution’s case began on a gruesome note with Dr. Eugene Carpenter, Jr., a county coroner, testifying to the nature and multitude of injuries Winter suffered prior to his death.
Winter died from blunt force trauma, according to the autopsy report.
Carpenter testified that Winter had 45 areas on his body that showed signs of blunt force, including bruises, scrapes, and cuts.
“It’s gross and very apparent what happened,” Carpenter said in regards to Winter’s body.
Carpenter testified that Winter had severe internal bleeding from a ruptured spleen and other injuries, including fractured ribs.
The detailed and sometimes graphic account of Winter’s injuries caused his widow to leave the courtroom with tears running down her face.
Hoyt’s defense attorney Frank Carson contends his client was defending himself and that Winter suffered the fatal injuries when he fell. He also countered that Winter’s heart disease, a blood alcohol level of .20 and a do not resuscitate directive caused his death and not Hoyt.
Carson repeatedly questioned if the ruptured spleen and fractured ribs could have been caused by a fall and Carpenter said a fall from a standing position, even onto a stationary object like a vehicle, would not have the sufficient force needed.
The cross-examination by Carson of Carpenter at times became testy, especially when Carson asked if Carpenter, a coroner, was present at the time of death.
“That’s a ridiculous question,” Carpenter replied.
The prosecution also brought to the stand Brook Avila of Delhi, who drove up on the altercation and later aided Winter.
Avila testified that as she approached the scene she saw one man lying in a fetal position on the road with another man hunched over him and repeatedly hitting him in the head.
Avila testified that the man doing the hitting resembled Hoyt and that he quit hitting Winter and left the area when she got out of her vehicle and said something to him to stop.
Avila said she helped Winter to his feet and asked if she should call 911. According to her testimony, Winter was insistent that law enforcement not be called and that he only wanted help finding his dog. Avila found the dog and was speaking with Winter when another woman pulled up to the scene and said she was calling 911. At that point Avila said Winter drove off and the other woman followed after him.
The sheriff’s department later caught up to Winter and called in medical personnel.
Investigators were able to determine Hoyt was the other party involved in the altercation and located him at his Turlock residence. He was taken into custody and later charged with homicide. He is currently out on bail.
The preliminary hearing was abruptly delayed Tuesday afternoon after Carson announced new evidence had come to light and he needed time to review it. There was no mention of what that evidence might be.
The hearing was continued to May 10.
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