Arraignment postponed for Turlock road-rage murder suspect

Michael Hoyt appears in court, does not enter plea

February 2, 2010 

UPDATE - A Turlock man accused of murder after a Monday road rage incident appeared in court in Modesto this afternoon. An arraignment hearing for Michael Joseph Hoyt, 49, was delayed until next week while he hired his own attorney.

A bespectacled Hoyt, wearing a red and white inmate jumpsuit and shackles, answered two questions from Judge Ricardo Córdova. He was represented by the Stanislaus County Public Defender’s office.

Hoyt answered “Yes” to confirm his legal name and said “Yes, Your Honor” when Córdova asked if he wanted to waive his right to a speedy trial in order to delay his arraignment.

Hoyt did not enter a plea.

He is charged in the death of Ken Winter, a 67-year-old retired sheet metal worker from Hilmar.

According to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Hoyt was driving along Paulson Road southeast of Turlock when Winter turned onto Paulson from Linwood Avenue.

Hoyt believed Winter did not stop his truck at the stop sign on Linwood, and pulled in front of Winter, cutting him off, Winter’s family said.

A fight ensued. Hoyt, who was with his girlfriend, left the scene. Winter tried to drive away, but lost consciousness. A witness called 911; paramedics took Winter to Emanuel Medical Center, where he died early Tuesday.

Detective Darwin Hatfield said Wednesday he did not yet have results from an autopsy performed Tuesday. He anticipated it will take four to six weeks for toxicology reports to come back and a formal finding made.

Córdova continued the arraignment until 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

******

A Turlock man is expected to be arraigned today in Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto on a charge of murder in the death of a man authorities say was beaten in a road rage fight near Turlock.

Ken Winter, 67, was turning in southeast Turlock just before noon Monday when the incident occurred. According to Stanislaus County sheriff's Detective Darwin Hatfield, another driver, Michael Hoyt, 49, thought that Winter did not stop his pickup at the stop sign at Linwood Avenue and Paulson Road.

Winter's cousin Dana Walters said her family was told that Hoyt cut off Winter, then dragged him from his truck and a fight ensued.

Hatfield would not say who started the fight, citing the ongoing investigation.

Both men apparently got back into their vehicles; Winter tried to drive away but lost consciousness, said his sister, Jan Knudson.

A witness called 911, but the Sheriff's Department wasn't immediately notified.

"It came in as a medical aid call," Hatfield said.

Paramedics took Winter by ambulance to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, where he was found to have internal injuries and suffered cardiac arrest.

"They attempted surgery, but he died at 4 o'clock (Tuesday) morning," Hatfield said. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday, but authorities did not announce a cause of death.

Investigators did not get an opportunity to talk to Winter, who never regained consciousness.

"He was already under medical care by the time our deputies arrived," Hatfield said.

Held without bail

Deputies arrested Hoyt at his Turlock home. He gave investigators a statement, and acknowledged being in a fight with Winter, Hatfield said. He was booked on an attempted murder charge that was raised to murder after Winter died.

He is being held in Stanislaus County Jail without bail. Arraignment is scheduled for today.

Hatfield said Hoyt's girlfriend was in the pickup he was driving. She gave detectives a statement, but Hatfield wouldn't elaborate.

Paulson runs parallel to busy Golden State Boulevard on the southeast side of Turlock.

"There's lots of traffic on Golden State," Hatfield said. "I'm hoping we have witnesses that saw it and will call us once they find out how severe it was."

Hoyt, who also lives in Sparks, Nev., operates a trucking company in Turlock, Hatfield said.

In 2003, Hoyt was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery, Stanislaus County court records show. The case was dismissed the next year.

Winter's family described him as quiet, with a dry sense of humor.

"He lived in the Turlock, Delhi and Modesto area all his life," Knudson said.

A sheet metal worker, Winter was a longtime employee of Thorsen's Heating and Air Conditioning, and had his own shop.

"He put in all the sheet metal in a lot of restaurants in Turlock and Modesto," Knudson said.

She and Walters described Winter as handy around the house, always fixing things for his family. The Turlock resident leaves a widow, three children and three stepchildren.

"He was just a nice, easygoing guy," Knudson said. "He was not at all confrontational. That's why it's so surprising that somebody would just decide to do that. It just boggles our minds."

Sheriff's officials ask anyone with information about the incident, or who saw the fight, to call Detective Darwin Hatfield at 525-7100 or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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