Cynthia Bradford called her daughter, Taylor Little, on April 24, 2014. The young pregnant woman was crying and told her mom that her boyfriend was assaulting her.
“She said, ‘He’s putting his hands on me and didn’t care who saw,’ ” Bradford testified in court Tuesday.
The mother and daughter then exchanged a series of text messages. Bradford told the judge that her daughter asked her to call police, because she was in a car driven by someone who was drunk.
Bradford called 911 and relayed the car’s description and direction as it traveled north on Interstate 5. A California Highway Patrol officer caught up to the car on the freeway in Stanislaus County shortly before it crashed.
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Little, 24, of Rio Vista died in the crash. Her boyfriend, Demaria Harge, was driving the car. He was arrested and now faces two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of Little and her unborn child, Concietta Little.
Harge’s preliminary hearing began Tuesday morning with Bradford’s testimony. Along with the murder charges, Harge, 25, of Fairfield is accused of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, evading a police officer and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Bradford, who is a drug and alcohol abuse counselor, said Harge and her daughter had been in a relationship for a few years, and he was usually under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She testified that she warned at least three times about the dangers of driving under the influence.
Cally Gregory was riding in the brown Lexus that Harge was driving when it crashed April 24, 2014, near Westley. She was injured in the crash but survived. Gregory testified Tuesday about what led up to the crash.
She and her friend, Little, had planned a road trip from their Rio Vista homes to Santa Barbara. She was surprised when Harge showed up with Little. Harge, whom Gregory had met only days before, was going to drive the two women. The trip south continued without any problems to Los Angeles, where they stayed the night.
On the morning of April 24, 2014, the trio started the trip back to Northern California. But Gregory said the mood had changed. She testified that Harge was angry, complaining about stomach pains. Gregory told the judge that Harge kept asking them to head to an emergency room to obtain opiates, but they didn’t.
“Taylor called him (Harge) a crybaby” for asking for opiates to relieve the stomach pains, Gregory said on the witness stand. She said Harge became angry at his girlfriend, who was seven months pregnant with his child.
Before getting on the road, Harge bought a bottle of Patron Tequila and cigarettes. Gregory testified that she saw Harge drink from the tequila bottle about 16 times while driving. “Straight from the bottle … it was dripping down his chin,” she said.
Harge was speeding and driving aggressively after he started drinking the tequila, according to Gregory. His girlfriend told him to slow down.
Gregory said they stopped at a gas station along the way, when Harge grabbed Little by the neck and told her “Shut the f--- up, b----.” He then drove away, leaving the two women at the gas station.
He returned later, grabbed his girlfriend by her hair and dragged her back into the car, Gregory testified. Gregory also got into the car and they continued heading north. Harge drove as the Lexus continued speeding, Gregory said, never dropping below 100 mph.
The two women continued to tell Harge to slow down, but Gregory said he ignored them. She told the judge that Harge slapped Little with the back of his hand at least three times while in the car.
CHP Officer Jonathan Peregoy received a call of possible domestic violence in a brown sedan heading north on Interstate 5. Peregoy parked his patrol car alongside the freeway’s two northbound lanes and waited for the car. He spotted the car speeding by, so he started his pursuit.
Peregoy testified Tuesday that the car was moving about 110 mph. The officer caught up to the car, which sped up to about 125 mph, according to Peregoy. He said the sedan’s driver was maneuvering aggressively, using both lanes to pass slower vehicles.
The car then veered to the right from the left lane, cutting off another vehicle before speeding down a ramp to the Howard Road/Ingram Creek Road exit, according to Peregoy. The prosecution showed a video from Peregoy’s dashboard camera that shows the brown car sideswipe a pickup. The driver then loses control, and the car overturns onto its roof.
The officer drove up to the crash site and spotted the brown Lexus. Harge was already out of the car. Peregoy brandished his gun and ordered Harge to get on the ground.
Peregoy told the judge that Harge initially refused to comply, but the defendant was taken into custody after the officer threatened to use a Taser. He testified that Harge was directing the officer’s attention to the car with Little still inside. The officer suggested in court that Harge possibly wanted to distract him to make an escape.
“To me, it seemed more of a distracting move,” Peregoy testified. “He was looking in all directions.”
Then, there was an outburst from the defendant in the courtroom. Harge seemed upset and questioned the officer’s suggestion. He said “It was a dirt road. Where am I going to run to?”
Little remained in the car, but she had no pulse. She died at the scene.
Testimony in the hearing is expected to continue Wednesday in Stanislaus Superior Court. At its conclusion, Judge Rick Distaso will decide whether there is enough evidence for Harge to stand trial.