Cynthia Bradford exchanged text messages with her daughter, Taylor Little, on April 24, 2014. The young pregnant woman was asking for help, telling her mother to call 911 to report a drunk driver heading north on Interstate 5.
The mother relayed to 911 dispatchers her daughter’s description of the brown two-door sedan approaching Los Banos. Bradford’s last text message to her daughter that afternoon was “Are you okay?”
Little, 24, of Rio Vista died in a crash that afternoon three years ago. She was found pinned inside the brown two-door Lexus sedan her boyfriend, Demaria Harge, was driving.
Authorities say Harge was driving faster than 100 mph when the car overturned along Interstate 5 near Westley. Little was about six months pregnant with Harge’s child.
Harge, 26, of Fairfield, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Little and her unborn child, Concietta Little. His trial began Thursday morning with opening statements from the attorneys.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito told the jury Harge was experiencing stomach pains, the result of opiate withdrawal, and got into a dispute with his girlfriend. The prosecutor said the defendant was drinking from a Patron tequila bottle while driving that day.
Harge, Little and her friend Cally Gregory were returning from Southern California that day. Colacito said Harge dragged his girlfriend into the car by her hair, and he was slapping her as he drove north after she repeatedly warned him to slow down.
The prosecutor said Little contacted her mother for help, hoping a call to 911 would stop her boyfriend and get him off the road. When Harge spotted a California Highway Patrol vehicle following him, the defendant said “Oh s---, I’m going to jail,” according to Colacito.
After a short police pursuit, Colacito said Harge crashed the Lexus on a freeway exit, “killing her and erasing the life of her unborn child.”
Sophia Ahmad, Harge’s attorney, told the jury that “tragic” circumstances surrounded the death of Harge’s girlfriend and his unborn child. “This is a very, very sad situation,” the defense attorney said.
Ahmad told the jurors her client is not guilty of murder, and she will ask them at the end of this trial to find that Harge is guilty of manslaughter.
Testimony in the trial started with Little’s mother on the witness stand. She said her daughter and Harge had dated for about two years before the deadly crash.
She testified that most of the time she saw Harge, he appeared under the influence of marijuana or other drugs like Vicodin. Bradford, who is a drug and alcohol abuse counselor, said she warned Harge at least three times about the dangers of driving under the influence, abusing drugs and driving recklessly.
In Harge’s preliminary hearing last year, the prosecutor said Harge has a history of Solano County arrests on suspicion of driving under the influence, speeding and evading police. None of the cases ended in convictions because Harge failed to appear in court and face those charges.
Shortly after 2 p.m. on April 24, 2014, California Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Peregoy was called to respond to a report of domestic violence in a car heading north on Interstate 5. The officer stopped under an overpass and waited about 40 minutes before he saw Harge’s brown Lexus speed by at 110 mph.
Peregoy testified Thursday afternoon that it took about 3 miles to get within a reasonable distance behind the speeding Lexus. Then, he spotted the Lexus move more aggressively in and out of freeway lanes. The officer said the Lexus at one point reached 130 mph.
The Lexus veered to the right from the left lane before speeding down a ramp to the Howard Road/Ingram Creek Road exit. The Lexus then sideswiped a pickup before overturning onto its roof.
The jury was shown video footage of the crash from the CHP vehicle’s dashboard camera and photos of Little pinned inside the car. Peregoy testified that he spotted Harge shortly after the defendant climbed out of the car’s driver-side window. As the officer handcuffed him, Harge was yelling “Help her! Help her!” according to Peregoy.
Cally Gregory was injured in the crash but survived.