A Tuolumne County Superior Court judge determined on Friday there was enough evidence against a Jamestown man accused of deliberately running over a 42-year-old man with his car on Oct. 3 to advance the case toward trial.
Presiding Judge Kevin Seibert presided over a three-hour preliminary hearing on Friday for suspect Dylan Colby Moyle, 29, and scheduled an arraignment on the information in the case for later in the month, the first required hearing before a trial date can be set.
The county District Attorney’s Office has charged Moyle with a single count of murder.
Anthony Palazuelos, a California Highway Patrol investigator with the Central Division Office out of Fresno, testified during the hearing that he interviewed residential witnesses to the fatal collision on Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street in Jamestown and reviewed surveillance footage in the case before Moyle was identified as the suspect in the alleged murder of Matthew Winks, 42, of Jamestown.
Palazuelos recalled that two residents of the area contacted each other in the moments following the collision, with one uttering, "It's Matt, it's Matt and I just found him like this."
Moyle was accused of fleeing the scene after the collision and ditching the suspected murder vehicle, a white 1998 Ford F-150, on rural U.S. Forest Service land days later.
When Moyle was arrested at a Bass Pro Shop in Manteca 10 days after the collision, he was found to be in possession of $2,800 in cash, an identification card which resembled him but did not match his name, and a bill of sale for the suspect vehicle, Palazuelos said.
Palazuelos also cited messages Moyle sent to a woman — possibly Moyle's girlfriend and a woman Winks was previously involved with — where he said he gave Winks a "love tap" with his vehicle because Winks had earlier shattered the windows of the F-150.
Throughout the hearing, Moyle quietly sat beside his attorney, Public Defender Scott Gross, in a blue surgical mask and in a red Tuolumne County Jail jumpsuit. In early December, Moyle said he was considering dropping Gross as his attorney, but he did not express any grievances with his representation on Friday.
Acting Tuolumne County District Attorney Eric Hovatter, who is prosecuting the case, said at the conclusion of the hearing that Moyle was aware of the previous relationship between Winks and the woman. He also noted a surveillance camera showed the F-150 "blowing through" a stop sign just seconds after Winks was seen walking past in the footage.
Hovatter said the evidence suggested implied malice, which was one of requirements he had to prove to bring the case forward.
Gross said the evidence provided during the hearing was "insufficient" to hold Moyle to account for murder, noting none of the videos referenced in Palazuelos' testimony were shown in court.
"It just shows to me they're trying to keep things from the court," Gross said.
An autopsy was performed on Winks on Oct. 9.
Palazuelos said the cause of death was determined to be traumatic head and neck injuries consistent with being hit from behind by a vehicle.
Gross objected to the characterization and noted that the autopsy said he was struck, but not from behind, so the attribute was stricken from the description.
During the hearing, Palazuelos reviewed multiple aerial photos of the Jamestown area and discussed some of the evidentiary findings of CHP Sonora-area officers, who responded to the crash on Oct. 3.
Palazuelos said tire marks were found on the north shoulder of Seventh Street, near where Winks' body was found.
Investigators interviewed a resident of the area on the 18100 block of Fifth Avenue who estimated the F-150 was traveling at more than 60 miles per hour at the time of the collision, Palazuelos testified. The resident said he was inside when the incident occured, but contacted law enforcement to report the reckless vehicle. The resident then went outside and contacted a woman who found Winks' body, and he was also able to identify Winks.
Palzuelos said the woman didn't see the collision, but said it appeared the vehicle bottomed out. She noted she had seen F150 before and the driver was a white man who usually wore a ballcap.
Another resident identified the driver of the vehicle as Moyle, Palazuelos said, and a CHP officer recognized him from a prior contact involving the vehicle.
Palazuelos also said video surveillance on the street showed Winks walking westbound on Seventh Street before the collision in blue jeans and a black tank top. The Ford F-150 entered into the frame and, later, was seen driving in the opposite direction with a hanging tailgate, he said.
Gross countered the description of the speed, noting no video footage showed the speed at the time of the collision. He also said no plaster casts were taken of the tire marks.
More surveillance footage showed the vehicle entering a parking lot at the Dollar General in Jamestown with the broken tailgate, Palazuelos said. The driver, believed to be Moyle, was described by Palazuelos as a white man who exited the vehicle wearing a patterned, striped shirt. He took something from the passenger side of the vehicle and threw it into the truck bed.
Later, Moyle was seen dropping a woman off at the Dollar General. Palazuelos said he reviewed messages sent to the woman, with one from Moyle reading, "I just ran into Matt."
The F-150 was found on Oct. 6 or Oct. 7 by a United States Forest Service officer at a "very remote location" on a dirt road near the intersection of Italian Bar and South Fork roads, Palazuelos testified. A witness observed a gray Jeep driving away from the vehicle with a white male wearing a striped shirt, Palazuelos said.
An officer who later reviewed the vehicle said the windows were broken out on both sides of the F-150.
At the time of the incident, the CHP released information about the F-150 because it remained missing. The vehicle was identified as having a license plate number of 8D44514, which may have had collision damage to the right front side and a damaged or missing rear tailgate.
Palazuelos testified that a license plate reader, or software inside of a camera which identifies license plates and other attendant information to the registration, was used to identify the vehicle and tie it to Moyle.
When the F-150 was seized, it was sent to the Department of Justice for analysis, Palazuelos said.
Moyle was arrested on Oct. 13 after he was spotted by CHP officers in the Knights Ferry area driving a 2006 Jeep SUV. Palazuelos said he was arrested in the parking lot of a Bass Pro Shop in Manteca while he was with his mother.
Inside the vehicle, $2,800 was found inside of an envelope, and a wallet in Moyle’s backpack had an ID for a man who looked similar to him but did not share the same name, Palazuelos said.
Palazuelos added that a citation issued to Moyle, a bill of sale for the F-150 with his name on it and EDD paperwork was found inside of the backpack.
Both inside of the Jeep and the F-150, investigators also found "very emotional letters" addressed to somebody and related to love, Palazuelos said. He referenced passages that were "distressed about something" and said the "most beautiful girl in the world" in a yellow notebook.
Seibert scheduled an arraignment on the information for at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 22.
Moyle was originally set for a preliminary examination in December but following COVID-19 guidelines set by the court, all preliminary hearings for defendants who waived their constitutional right to a speedy trial were rescheduled for 2021.
Moyle pleaded not guilty on Oct. 19 while on a video feed from the jail. At the same hearing, the court set his bail at $1 million. He has been in the custody of law enforcement since his arrest. He was first in the custody of the San Joaquin County Jail before being transferred to the Tuolumne County Jail.
Prior to Moyle's arrest, the CHP Sonora-area office in Jamestown referred the investigation to the Central Division CHP Investigative Services Unit based in Fresno.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4526.