MODESTO — A detective on Wednesday testified that a key witness who saw a man beating another during a suspected Turlock road rage incident misidentified the shoes that the suspect was wearing.
Stanislaus County sheriff's Detective Darwin Hatfield was being cross-examined by defense attorney Frank Carson, who asked whether a description is valuable information used by investigators to test the credibility of a witness. Hatfield said it is.
Brooke Avila, the witness, told investigators she saw Ken Winter on the ground in the fetal position trying to protect himself while Michael Joseph Hoyt was hitting him hard.
Avila initially told a deputy that she saw Hoyt wearing boots, but investigators determined Hoyt was wearing sneakers with spots of blood that came from Winter.
Hatfield testified that, at the time, he was not aware that Avila had told the deputy the suspect was wearing boots.
Hoyt is on trial accused of second-degree murder in the death of 67-year-old Winter. The confrontation occurred shortly before noon Feb. 1, 2010, at Linwood Avenue and Paulson Road. Hoyt has said he thought Winter didn't stop his pickup at the stop sign.
They got out of their vehicles and a fight ensued, authorities say. Later, both men got back in their vehicles; Winter drove away to his nearby sheet-metal shop, where he lost consciousness. He died later at a hospital.
Carson has argued that Winter was the aggressor, throwing the first punch at Hoyt. Winter was drunk, with a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent to drive.
Hatfield testified that his investigation did not narrowly focus on Hoyt after the confrontation. "In the first few hours, just about everybody and anybody" was a potential suspect, he said.
The detective said that his intent was to take Hoyt into custody when he met with the defendant at his home about five hours after the confrontation. "He was a person of interest, yes," Hatfield answered during cross-examination.
Testimony in the trial continues today in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.