Retired California Highway Patrol Sgt. Shawn Snyder testified Monday morning that Diane Anderson appeared nervous when he approached her at the scene of a triple-fatal head-on collision in La Grange almost three years ago.
“I asked her if she was involved to determine what her status was and she said, ‘I… we… you’ll have to talk to my husband,’ like that. Like kind of disjointed,” Snyder said.
As Snyder pressed her for more information, she denied having any role in the accident. She said she and her husband, Danny, came upon the accident and stopped because he was a doctor who could render aid.
He would later watch them walk northbound on J-59 in La Grange, approximately 75 yards from the accident scene, arm in arm. Danny looked down at the road while Diane laid her head on his shoulder, Snyder testified.
“I was quite struck by them, just commenting to the effect that the Andersons demeanor stuck with me,” Snyder noted about his conversation with other CHP officers about the accident.
Officer Steve Griefer said he approached Diane Anderson at the scene after she walked past him with “a thousand yard stare.”
“I just wanted to make sure she was OK,” Griefer said, noting she also did not share any information about being involved.
Diane Anderson was a passenger in a 2015 Acura MDX driven by her husband, Danny, which prosecutors say crossed over the double yellow lines on northbound J-59 to pass two vehicles and caused the accident.
She is on trial in San Joaquin Superior Court on charges of accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter, failure to perform a duty after an accident (also known as hit and run) and misdemeanors concealing evidence and obstructing an investigation.
Mark Coleman, one of her attorneys, took issue with the date Snyder’s supplemental report was prepared, Feb. 16, 2017, indicating his recollection of the collision may be flawed.
Coleman also said Diane Anderson answered the questions of CHP officers with honestly because she didn’t see the accident nor believed that her vehicle was the cause.
“When you ask someone if they’re involved, is just your expectation they know what you mean?” Coleman asked Snyder.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg suggested otherwise, noting Snyder would have requested additional information related to their vehicle, registration and insurance had Diane Anderson been more forthright.
The jury heard from six CHP officers total involved in the investigation on Monday, including a collision reconstruction expert with the CHP Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team.
According to the MAIT calculations, the Andersons’ Acura MDX would have had to travel approximately 958 feet in 9.12 seconds to complete a pass of the Camry and the Ford Windstar in front of it and return to the northbound lane.
Shaw broke the pass into intervals, indicating that the Hoffman’s Lexus would have been visible to Danny Anderson two seconds into the pass and Danny Anderson would have been alongside the Camry at 5.25 seconds. At 7.54 seconds into the pass, the Lexus would have gone onto the westbound shoulder to avoid a collision with the Acura, Shaw said.
At 8.78 seconds, the Lexus would have hit the Camry, Shaw continued.
Shaw pulled information about the speed of the Camry from an airbag control module, which captured data about the vehicle approximately five second before the collision when the airbags were deployed. The information showed the Lexus was driving at 47.2 miles per hour five seconds before the accident, accelerated about one mile per hour in the interceding seconds and decelerated in the second before the accident.
Shaw used the data to estimate the speed of the Acura, which was behind the Camry, before the pass. According to data MAIT pulled from Car & Driver, the Acura would have taken approximately 4.7 seconds to increase from 50 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour, a rate which he said was 6.24 feet per second. The distance between the vehicles was estimated based off surveillance footage from the Houseboat Mini Mart, which showed the Acura was 173 feet between its starting point and the location where it could safely pass back into the northbound lane if the vehicles were at a standstill.
Shaw said the Acura was given the benefit in the reconstruction of not including an uphill slope being driven on the pass and not including the time it would have taken to move horizontally between lanes.
The speed limit is 55 miles per hour on that section of J-59, Shaw said.
Earlier, Officer Michael Huddleston said he took measurements and photographs of the accident scene, which included tire friction marks and furrows in the gravel shoulder from white Lexus RX300 driven by 16-year-old Trista Hoffman and gouges in the pavement. Huddleston said the physical evidence showed the crash happened north of Bonds Flat Road and south of Old Don Pedro Road on J-59.
One of Diane Anderson’s attorneys, Nathan Nutting of Sonora, logged multiple hearsay objections with Siebert because he said Dorothy Eisemann’s estimates about location were given to Shaw and guided the production of the MAIT report.
Shane Ferriera, commander of the Modesto area office, also testified on Monday that he requested officers draft supplemental reports detailing their contacts with the Andersons after he became lieutenant commander of the Sonora area CHP office on Feb. 1, 2017.
“The purpose was to document the facts,” he told Coleman.
Ferriera said he had a vague recollection of Christina Hodge, who called 911 to say she saw the accident and a juvenile pedestrian may have been hit by a vehicle. She later said a vehicle passing southbound caused the accident.
The jury also heard an additional 10 minutes of an interview with Diane Anderson recorded by CHP officers in her home on Dec. 6, 2016.
“Are we being sued?” Diane Anderson asks the officers, attempting to gauge the motive behind their unannounced presence in her home. “That’s been my biggest… my big concern.”
Though much of recording is garbled or obscured by feedback — Coleman said Monday the recording was made without her knowledge — Diane Anderson recounts when they turned around back to the accident scene.
After she got out of the car, she said, “it almost felt like kind of an out of body experience.”
She told officers she did not see the accident because she was tired, playing solitaire on her iPad or possibly climbing into the back seat while her husband drove.
In the recording, Diane Anderson acknowledges reading news reports in The Union Democrat related to the search of a white crossover SUV believed to have been the cause of the accident, but indicated she did not contact the CHP about her and Danny’s vehicle because she did not believe they were involved.
Officer Faustino Pulido testified that multiple press releases were issued releasing the details of the accident, the names of the victims and subsequent searches for the involved vehicles.
Coleman said news reports in print and TV media employed the phrase “fled the scene” from CHP reports, but it did not accurately reflect the Andersons, who returned to render aid.
Pulido said the CHP was no longer seeking to identify the Acura MDX when it was determined it returned to the scene.
Siebert ruled on Monday some portions of the recording would not be disclosed to the jury, including Diane Anderson’s speculations the 16-year-old driver of the Lexus may have been texting and her asking if she should retain counsel.
The recording is expected to be played in full by the end of the day on Tuesday.
The defense also said they maintain their objection to a statement recorded of Danny Anderson by CHP Officer Jason Austin where he admitted to crossing over the double yellow lines. The defense has asserted it relieves the prosecution of its burden to prove Danny Anderson committed a felony.
As of Monday afternoon, Siebert has not yet ruled on the issue.
Krieg stated her intention to call Danny Anderson to the stand and plans are being developed to transfer him to the San Joaquin County Superior Court to testify. Krieg said he was transferred to the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy in anticipation of his appearance by the end of the day Monday or Tuesday morning.
A hearing will be held to determine if Danny Anderson will invoke his constitutional or privacy rights and it is undetermined if he will testify before the jury.
Siebert ruled Danny Anderson would be allowed to appear in civilian clothes at the trial, but said he could not intervene on California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation policy to have him shackled and escorted by an officer.
Siebert said they would “make an effort to not allow the jury to see he is an inmate, but they’re probably going to be able to guess.”
The head-on collision between a white Lexus RX300 driven by 16-year-old Trista Hoffman and a white Toyota Camry driven by Dorothy Eisemann resulted in the deaths of Trista, her mother, Tina, Dorothy Eisemann’s husband, Rheinholt. Trista’s brother Dillon and her best friend Annie Johnson were injured.
Danny Anderson was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison last year after being convicted of triple manslaughter.
The presentation of the defense case will begin on Tuesday.