Fatal hit-and-run victim’s bike had no headlights or reflectors – The Vacaville Reporter
A Fairfield police officer testifying Thursday at the impaired murder trial of a 31-year-old Fairfield man noted that the victim, who was riding his bike at night in traffic last October, did not have a headlight nor reflectors on his bike when he was hit and killed.
Zachary Tuss’ testimony came on day 7 of the trial of Nadhir Muftah Ghuzi, who is charged with the hit-and-run death of Darryl L. Mitchell, 52, of Vallejo, who died in the early evening of October 19. 2021, near the intersection of North Texas and Wisconsin streets in Fairfield.
As part of her cross-examination of Tuss during the day’s afternoon session in Department 11, Assistant Public Defender Jeannette Garcia had the officer admit that his collision report did not mention in detail the amount of light at the collision site other than its marking the time of day entry as “dark”.
Although Garcia’s questions seemed to suggest that Tuss’s report lacked important and possibly somewhat random details, he indicated that the rear wheel of Mitchell’s bike had been “obliterated” by the collision.
At one point during his cross-examination, Garcia got Tuss to admit that he had spoken to ‘several’ eyewitnesses, including a 15-year-old boy in a vehicle with his mother at the time of the collision. in North Texas. However, Tuss said he did not interview the mother.
Garcia then asked if Tuss had spoken with Joella Barkus, who on the second day of the trial testified that she was driving a vehicle alongside but slightly behind Ghuzi, saw the collision, pulled over and called 911.
Tuss said he did not interview Barkus, who was among the first witnesses for Assistant District Attorney Jessica Morrell.
Garcia also peppered Tuss, as lead investigator, with questions about recovering surveillance footage from nearby businesses. While he had recovered at least one video from the Yo Sushi restaurant at 1430 N. Texas, Tuss admitted that he had not recovered videos from at least two businesses, including a taqueria and the Grocery Outlet store.
However, with the help of the city’s street camera system, police investigators were able to locate the suspect vehicle “within minutes,” Tuss said.
Tuss’ testimony came after Constable Sean Galey on Day 4 of the trial confirmed footage in a police photo that Mitchell was wearing dark clothing and apparently had a syringe in his possession, items that were pictured as they lay in the street, when Ghuzi punched him around 7 p.m.
Galey also testified that he arrived at Ghuzi’s residence in the 1600 block of Glenmore Drive, to which investigators determined Ghuzi had fled and where they found the Nissan he had been driving, as shown a video.
Solano County Jail records show Ghuzi was arrested and taken into custody shortly after midnight on October 20 on suspicion of, in addition to felonies, three misdemeanors: impaired driving; have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08%; and a violation of probation.
During his opening statement on the first day of the trial, Morrell told jurors that Ghuzi had been convicted of a previous DUI in 2019 and, when arrested, refused to give a blood sample, although a sample was taken later.
Evidence will show Ghuzi stopped at George’s Liquors at 1744 N. Texas St., where a security guard, Morell said, was “concerned” about Ghuzi’s apparent drunkenness.
She said Ghuzi was on probation and told to abstain from drinking alcohol, took a drunk driving course in July 2020 but drank on October 19, 2021, her 31st birthday, “got in his car, drove dangerously, and Mr. Mitchell died.”
In his opening statement, Garcia challenged the prosecution’s case, telling jurors that “lack of evidence will lead you to a verdict of not guilty” and that the prosecutor “will not meet the burden of guilt at the beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Disputing one of the prosecution’s main allegations, Ghuzi’s blood alcohol level was 0.04%, well below the legal limit, when he was tested, she said.
In a pretrial hearing, Garcia told Judge William J. Pendergast III, presiding over the case, that Mitchell was “not following the rules of the road” the night he was struck and killed.
And in her opening statement she said evidence would show his blood contained methamphetamine, a syringe was found on his body, he was driving dangerously against traffic 30 minutes after sunset, in the dark , with no safety lights on his bike, dressed in all black clothing and wearing no reflective gear.
Ghuzi remains at Stanton Correctional Center in Fairfield without bond.
The trial, which is expected to last another week, resumes at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Department 11 of the Fairfield Justice Center.