Fresno woman in court for death of highway worker

June 21, 2013 12:00:27 AM PDT
A judge is hearing the evidence in the case of a Fresno woman accused of killing a highway worker last summer while driving drunk.

Alyssa Villanueva is facing second degree murder charges for hitting Regan Johnson while she worked on a repaving project on Highway 99.

Villenueva showed little emotion Thursday during her preliminary hearing. According to court records, Villanueva was drinking with her friend, Vanessa Ortega shortly before the fatal hit and run crash.

On the stand, Ortega admitted she didn't want to testify and gave the court the same three word answer over and over.

"I do not recall," said Ortega. "Do you recall telling him, she was like I crashed my car and like what are you talking about? I don't recall."

Even though the collision happened less than a year ago, Ortega said she didn't remember talking to investigators or receiving text messages from Villanueva prior to and after the crash. CHP officers say they have both as evidence.

Investigators say Villanueva was northbound on Highway 99 near Clinton when she struck and killed Regan Johnson.

John Dibenedetto was working near the victim that night and noticed the erratic driver running over cones and driving in lanes that were under construction, moments before he remembered where Johnson was working.

"As I approached, looking for Regan, looking at where she could've been, if she could've gotten out of the way or what had had happened I could see the 18 wheeler stopped and somebody jumping out of the 18 wheeler and running across in front of the car and then I ran up and I came up and there was Regan laying on the shoulder."

According to collision reports, Villanueva went home and never reported the crash. Officers were led to the car the next morning, when they got an anonymous call.

Officer Mike Trenholm was the first to confront her, at the apartment complex where the wrecked car was parked and covered.

"I asked her if she knew why we were there, meaning law enforcement," said Officer Trenholm. "She said because my car is totaled and someone died on the freeway."

Her answer gave him, the information he needed to tie her to the collision.

Investigators also found yellowish green fibers on the car windshield that matched Johnson's clothing. During the autopsy, grey paint chips were also collected from the victim.


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