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March 25, 2014

Defendant gets six years in prison for deadly hit-and-run near Ceres

Norman Hyer on Tuesday spoke to a judge about the impact of finding his 53-year-old son dead on the edge of a road after a failed attempt to stop illegal garbage dumping on the family’s rural property. He spoke before Patrick Michael Denny was sentenced to six years in prison.

Norman Hyer on Tuesday spoke to a judge about finding his 53-year-old son dead on the edge of a road after a failed attempt to stop illegal garbage dumping on the family’s rural property.

He touched his son’s neck and checked for a pulse, but found no sign of life. “I knew at that point he was gone,” he said.

Stan Hyer died at the scene. Authorities say he was chasing a truck dumping garbage on the property south of Ceres.

Patrick Michael Denny, 42, has been convicted in Hyer’s death. On March 6, Denny pleaded no contest to a hit-and-run resulting in death.

Prosecutors dropped a felony charge of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, in exchange for the plea deal. Denny was sentenced to six years in prison.

Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo, who prosecuted the case, said Denny must serve at least half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Vittoria Bossi, Denny’s defense attorney, said in court that her client is “remorseful” for what happened to Hyer. She said Denny has had a hard upbringing, and she hopes he will use this time in prison to reflect on his actions and change his life for the better.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff formally sentenced Denny on Tuesday afternoon. Before that, Norman Hyer was given a chance to speak in court about the impact of his son’s death and Denny’s plea deal.

He said he wasn’t satisfied with the case’s outcome and would like to see Denny convicted of all three charges. “It’s not my decision to do that, but we have to live with what we got,” Norman Hyer said in court.

The victim’s father told the judge that he knew the defendant when Denny was a kid, and he knew Denny had a troubled childhood caused by a lack of a stable life at home.

But he said Denny has shown nothing but disrespect for authority and law enforcement as an adult, which is evident through about 20 criminal and traffic cases in which he is listed as a defendant in Stanislaus County court records going as far back as 1993.

Authorities have said Denny had a long list of prior arrests on suspicion of drug possession, counterfeiting and possession of stolen property.

Norman Hyer said Denny had a job taking garbage to the county landfill. Instead, he said, Denny would dump the garbage on rural properties and pocket the money meant for garbage dumping fees for himself.

“Total disrespect for good farm people,” Norman Hyer said in court. “Farm people like to keep their roads clean.”

Stan Hyer was a recovering alcoholic and had been sober for seven years under the direction of the court, his father said. He said his son was working for him, making enough money to pay some bills and buy groceries.

On Nov. 8, 2012, Stan Hyer was cutting dead trees in his father’s orchard. He spotted a truck dumping a large pile of garbage nearby, so he got on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle and gave chase.

He drove the ATV through a field to cut off the truck, which hit the ATV on Keyes Road. Norman Hyer told the judge that his son was dragged about 100 feet. He said he found the ATV on a canal bridge and his son on the side of the road in a large pool of blood.

Authorities said Denny drove away and hid from law enforcement for a few days. “He was only thinking of himself,” the victim’s father said about the defendant’s attempt to escape arrest.

The search for Denny ended three days later, when the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force found him hiding in the back of a car in Modesto. Norman Hyer said investigators found the defendant by tracking a cellphone Denny had bought after Stan Hyer was killed.

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