Three law-enforcement officers took the witness stand Friday as Santa Barbara County prosecutors worked to establish the sequence of events leading up to a “car surfing” incident that claimed the life of a 26-year-old Santa Barbara woman in June.
The testimony came during the second day of the preliminary hearing for Lanie Tyrone Richardson, 28, who is facing murder and other felony charges stemming from the death of Allison Meadows in the early morning hours of June 6.
Car surfing involves passengers performing dangerous maneuvers while the vehicle is in motion. The thrill-seeking stunts include hanging out of the vehicle, as well as riding on the hood, roof or trunk.
Meadows and Lindsay Keebler, 26, were riding on the hood of the Toyota 4-Runner that Richardson was driving when the two women were ejected onto East Valley Road in Montecito, according to a sworn statement from a California Highway Patrol officer.
Meadows died of major head injuries and Keebler was seriously injured in the incident.
Richardson has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence, causing great bodily injury to another person, and with prior DUI convictions; DUI causing serious bodily injury with prior DUI convictions; and driving with a license that has been suspended or revoked due to DUI.
He entered a not-guilty plea to all the charges in June.
Richardson has a long history of criminal problems, according to court records, including arrests for DUI in March 2008, November 2010 and January 2011. He also has served time in state prison for cocaine-related offenses, and for having unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl, according to the court records.
In initial public reports about the accident, the CHP referred to Richardson and a passenger — identified Friday for the first time as Connor Clowers, 29, of Santa Barbara — as “good Samaritans” who had told officers they came upon the injured women while driving along East Valley Road.
But investigators and prosecutors allege that Richardson, Clowers and Keebler made up that story while driving Meadows to the hospital in order to “fool” authorities about what really happened.
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen, Seigel said he was called to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital the morning of the incident, and his testimony highlighted one of the problems facing the prosecution.
A blood-alcohol test was never administered to Richardson that morning by law-enforcement officers, and although Siegel reported that he’d noticed a “slight odor” of alcohol on the suspect, he did not make a note of it in his initial report from that morning.
Siegel did mention that odor in a follow-up report, which he told defense attorney Rafael Amezaga he’d finished writing up on Thursday before the preliminary hearing began
“Wouldn’t it be fair to say that if you believed Mr. Richardson was driving under the influence, you would have conducted a DUI investigation?” Amezaga asked Siegel.
Siegel responded that he “was told it was (CHP’s) case and they would be handling the investigation from there.”
The public also heard Jose Alvarez, a detective coroner for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, who examined Meadows’ body after the incident.
Alvarez and Dr. Robert Anthony conducted an autopsy on June 8, and Alvarez recalled that Meadows had a “gaping laceration” on her head, cranial fractures and abrasions all over her arms, hands and torso, the type “commonly seen with someone making contact with asphalt.”
The detective also noted that Meadows had asphalt embedded in her skin, and Anthony determined the cause of her death was blunt-force cerebral cranial trauma.
CHP Officer Jason Miller was the third witness who spoke Friday. He recalled arriving at Cottage Hospital at 6:23 a.m., about 40 minutes after the injured women were brought to the emergency room.
Clowers appeared to be slightly intoxicated and unkempt, Miller said, and was slurring his words, but coherent.
Richardson appeared intoxicated, but did not slur his words, and was not arrested, Miller said.
“He was not the focus of my investigation at that point,” he said.
Miller said he questioned Richardson and Clowers, who recounted the same story that they had told Siegel earlier — that an injured woman they had never seen before waved them down in the roadway and pointed out another friend who had been injured.
Miller said the men told him they put both women in the 4-Runner and headed directly to the hospital. Richardson said both women apparently had been struck by a vehicle, and he didn’t think to call 9-1-1, Miller testified.
Miller testified that Richardson gave this account of his activities the night before the accident:
He went to Old King’s Road, a State Street Bar, for drinks with his brother at about 7:30 p.m. Then he went to a friend’s house alone, where he had picked up Clowers and several others, and went to another State Street bar, Whiskey Richards.
Richardson had had some drinks and left around 1 or 2 a.m. A friend called later, inviting him to a party in Summerland, where Richardson said he “had beer, mixed drinks and shots.”
Leaving the party sometime after 4 a.m., he took back roads home, and said “he just thought it was safer to drive on the back roads,” he said.
Clowers related a similar story, according to Miller, and said he’d been at Whiskey Richards playing his trumpet, but said he’d had no contact with Richardson until around 11:30 p.m. Clowers said he later left with Richardson to go to a party.
Miller also recounted examining the white SUV that Richardson had been driving, and said there were some “disturbances” in debris and dirt that was on the hood, as well as some smudge marks, “possibly hand prints” on the windshield.
He also noted damage to the hood, a crease “that had been lifted up an inch or so, as though it had been slightly pushed back.”
Inside the vehicle, Miller said there was a large amount of blood in the rear seat just behind the driver’s seat and in the front right passenger area as well.
Later, Miller said officers found a collision scene that had a large pool of blood in the roadway, on the south shoulder near a telephone pole, and markings on the asphalt consistent with someone scraping or moving across the roadway.
“There were what appeared to be sole marks from a shoe and blue jean material in the roadway, also a piece of skin with hairs coming out of consistent with Lindsey’s head,” he said. “The physical evidence at the scene was inconsistent with someone that had been struck by a vehicle.”
At the hospital, Miller testified, he spoke to Keebler, who had a large cut to her head, scrapes to the top side of her feet, and large lacerations and gaping holes in her kneecaps.
A security video from the nearby Birnam Wood Golf Club was also dicussed Friday, and Miller said that video recorded a vehicle matching Richardson’s description driving east on East Valley Road, and at about 5:30 a.m. “traveling at a high rate of speed” westbound toward Santa Barbara.
From the black-and-white video, Miller said, he couldn’t see who was driving the vehicle, or any passengers, and that no one was riding on the hood. A couple of other light-colored vehicles also passed by at that time, a fact not lost on Amezaga.
“How were you able to tell the difference between the 4-Runner and other vehicles?” he pressed Miller.
“Based on its size and its shape,” Miller answered, but added that he was unable to determine size or make of the other vehicles.
Video surveillance was also taken at Whiskey Richards, and Miller said a bar manager, who had been tipped off by friends about the incident, was already reviewing the tape when he and other officers arrived and asked to see it.
Miller said the officers, who were trying to confirm that Richardson and Clowers knew the two women, saw interactions between all four of them on the tape, and the video shows them leaving the bar together at about 2 a.m.
Richardson was observed holding a beer in the video, but Miller said he didn’t specifically see him drink the alcohol.
The hearing will resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Jean M. Dandona.