Editor's note: This story contains graphic content that some readers may find disturbing.
Lalanya Beck testified Thursday that she was driving on Myrtle Avenue early in the morning of Sept. 27, 2012, when she noticed something in the road.
Beck testified that it wasn't until she was passing by that she realized what she saw was a person.
Beck's testimony came on the third day of a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to hold 29-year-old Jason Anthony Warren to stand trial on two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. The charges stem from allegations that Warren killed Dorothy Ulrich at her Hoopa home around 4:30 a.m., took her car and 90 minutes later intentionally ran down three runners on Myrtle Avenue outside of Eureka.
According to her testimony, Beck was the first person to come across the scene of the fatal hit-and-run crash that left Humboldt State University geography lecturer Suzanne Seemann dead and seriously injured her two running partners.
Beck testified that she left her home at about 5:35 a.m. that morning and was in the Freshwater area, heading into Eureka, when she noticed a vehicle off the road ahead of her. She said she saw the vehicle turn around and begin to head south on Myrtle Avenue in the northbound lane. It then corrected, Beck testified, pulling into the southbound lane, but veered up onto the shoulder as it crested a small hill, then kept driving.
Thinking the car ahead of her had possibly pulled into the wrong lane and off the road in an effort to avoid some debris in the roadway, Beck testified that she was careful as she drove up the hill. It wasn't until she passed the scene, she said, that she realized the debris she thought she'd seen was actually a person lying in the southbound lane.
Beck testified that she doubled back and parked her car in the southbound lane in front of the injured runner in an effort to protect her from traffic, then called 911.
While prosecutors allege Warren ran down the runners in Ulrich's 2005 Kia Spectra -- a vehicle police ultimately recovered later that morning in a parking lot on California Street and which had extensive damage -- Beck testified Thursday that she thought the vehicle she saw ahead of her was a pickup truck.
Arcata Police Sgt. Ron Sligh also took the witness stand on Thursday, testifying that he was driving to work on Sept. 27, 2012, from his Cutten home in a patrol vehicle when he came across a vehicle stopped in the southbound lane with its hazard lights on near Ole Hansen Road. Sligh said he slowed down and then noticed a shoe sitting in the northbound lane.
Sligh testified that he then noticed a person lying near Beck's car, and he got out of his patrol car to check on her. The woman had a compound leg fracture, Sligh testified, and was in a “semi-conscious” state. As Sligh was checking on the woman, he heard yelling from a ditch on the west side of the road, he said, and went to check it out. In the ditch, Sligh said he saw another injured woman and looked her over. Not seeing any visible injuries, he testified he told her to lie still and that help was coming.
The roadway was strewn with debris, including reflective material and a runner's headlamp, Sligh testified, adding that he walked south on Myrtle Avenue a little bit to survey the scene.
”When I got up there, I saw a third lady off the road in a ditch,” he testified, adding that the woman was lying on her side.
Sligh said he walked over to the woman -- later identified as Seemann -- and noticed she wasn't breathing. Sligh said he felt for a pulse, but couldn't find one.
Called to the stand by prosecuting District Attorney Paul Gallegos, Eureka Police Officer Wayne Rabang testified that he was working the morning of Sept. 27, 2012, when he received a call of a suspicious vehicle parked in a lot off California Street shortly before 7 a.m.
When he got to the California Street address, Rabang said he noticed a silver vehicle that was taking up two parking stalls. Taking a closer look, Rabang said he noticed the vehicle had extensive front end damage and a shattered windshield.
”I noticed there were almost like drag marks on the front portion of the hood that extended over the roof of the vehicle,” he testified, adding that the vehicle also had “rubbing” on its right and left front, and that its side mirrors had been damaged.
Rabang testified that he noticed a reddish-brownish smudge on the shattered windshield, as well as apparent hair in a windshield crack.
The officer said the inside of the vehicle appeared to be in “disarray,” with shattered glass on the front seats, both of which were back in reclining positions. He testified that he saw “some type of fluid” around the area of the vehicle's parking brake.
Rabang testified that he stayed with the vehicle until California Highway Patrol officers arrived and took over control of the scene.
Under cross examination from Warren's attorney, Public Defender Kevin Robinson, Rabang testified that he had been briefed on the hit-and-run collision earlier that morning on Myrtle Avenue and assumed the vehicle he was looking at had been involved. Consequently, he said, he didn't touch the car or check to see if its engine was still warm.
Debra Zanotti testified that she arrived to work at the California Street address at 6:37 that morning and immediately noticed the damaged vehicle and called police. Another witness called Thursday -- EPD Officer Benjamin Omey -- testified that later that day, someone at the California Street address called to report they'd found a wallet on a back porch there. Omey said he retrieved the wallet, found it belonged to Ulrich and booked it into evidence.
The hearing is scheduled to continue this morning.
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThadeusGreenson.