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  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Paul William Walden, right, accused of a July DUI murder in Carmichael, attends a preliminary hearing Friday in Sacramento.

  • Family photo

  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Gail and Chris Randall, parents of Harison Long-Randall, leave the courtroom Friday during a break in the preliminary hearing of Paul William Walden in Sacramento Superior Court. Walden is accused in the July hit-and-run crash in Carmichael that killed Long-Randall.

Suspect in Carmichael DUI murder looking for heroin at time of crash, witness says

Published: Saturday, Apr. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Paul William Walden had just driven cross-country from North Carolina, looking to buy some heroin and possibly talking on a cellphone at the time he crashed his car into Harison Long-Randall and killed him last year, according to court testimony Friday.

California Highway Patrol Officer David Longo provided the new details during a Sacramento Superior Court preliminary hearing into last year's fatal wreck in Carmichael in which Long-Randall, 21, was killed and his girlfriend was seriously injured. Her four dogs also were killed in the crash.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Steve White ordered Walden to stand trial on charges of murder, vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run, driving with a revoked or suspended license and two counts of driving under the influence. The judge tentatively set Walden's trial for July 17.

In his testimony Friday, Longo related the recollections about the crash from Gemily West, Long-Randall's girlfriend, who was 23 at the time of the 10 p.m. collision on July 16 at the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Engle Road.

According to Longo, West said she and her boyfriend had just walked her four dogs at a nearby park and were headed back to her residence when they came to the south crosswalk of the intersection and looked to cross Garfield west to east.

"They had stopped and made sure no cars were coming," Longo testified, under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Kari Reeve. "She saw some car lights to her left … (and) heard a large revving engine noise."

A car in the right-hand turn lane suddenly veered left, Longo said. It smashed a stop sign and headed toward them, according to West's account as told by Longo.

"It was like a rocket taking off," Longo said West told investigators. "She said she heard Mr. Randall say something to the effect of 'Oh, no,' and embracing a bear hug and pushing her to the ground."

West suffered a broken leg and cuts and bruises and a puncture wound to her hip. Lying in the street and crying in pain, West said she saw Long-Randall "in a prone position," Longo testified, "pulling up on his elbows." She said she thought he had his leg tucked up underneath his body, but then saw it "laying in the gutter."

Paramedics rushed Long-Randall to a hospital. He died 10 days later.

Officers found the remains of two of West's dogs 50 feet south of the crosswalk and of the two others about 100 feet from the point of impact. Witnesses estimated that Walden's 1987 Nissan Maxima was traveling at 75 to 90 miles per hour when he hit the couple and the dogs. Two witnesses also told the CHP his headlights may have been off, although a photo from a nearby traffic camera taken three minutes before the crash showed his lights were on.

Longo quoted extensively throughout the hearing from the statements to investigators made by a recent heroin addict acquaintance of Walden's. It was the acquaintance, identified as Cody Miller, who said Walden had just arrived in the Sacramento area from back East and was looking to buy some "stuff" – a street term commonly used by heroin users to identify their favorite drug.

"Mr. Walden was coming in from North Carolina and had just arrived in town," Longo said, quoting Miller's statements to investigators. When Miller told Walden he couldn't find any heroin, Walden replied "he'd get his own stuff," according to Longo.

The CHP's Longo testified that Walden called Miller at 8:45 p.m., 9 p.m. and 9:19 p.m. in his search for heroin.

The officer did not say whether Walden was able to obtain any heroin before the crash. It could be an important element in the murder charge against Walden that is based in part on whether he was under the influence.

Walden's attorney, Michael Long, said it is a strong possibility his client was falling asleep at the time of the wreck after a cross-country drive.

"If you've driven back from North Carolina after four days, you're going to be drowsy," Long said. "It's 10 o'clock at night. You're going to be drowsy."

Walden was arrested three days after the crash.

Long argued in court his client did not get his hands on any heroin prior to the crash. Long said in an interview outside the courtroom that Walden procured the drug after he fled the collision.

"Within the next hour, after the accident," Long told reporters.

Longo said Walden's phone records showed he received a call on his cellphone at 9:59:50 p.m. – just 10 seconds before the CHP's estimated time of the crash. The call came from a phone registered to Walden's mother, Longo said. It lasted a minute and 40 seconds. Longo testified the first 911 call on the collision received by the CHP was recorded at 10:01:42 p.m.

Deputy District Attorney Reeve declined to be interviewed after the hearing.

Asked if his client was on the cellphone at the time of the collision, Long said, "That's what we'll find out."

After the collision at Garfield and Engle, Miller, according to Longo, received another series of calls from Walden saying his car broke down and he needed some help. Under questioning from Long, the officer said the two had cellphone conversations at 10:11 p.m., 10:27 p.m., 10:29 p.m., 10:41 p.m. and 10:49 p.m.

"There may have been more," Longo said.

Walden, in one of his later calls, said he no longer needed assistance. Miller met Walden sometime after the 10:49 p.m. call at the defendant's mother's house in North Highlands. Miller told authorities that when he pulled up, Walden was still unloading his car from the cross-country trip, according to Longo.

It was Miller's opinion that by the time he got to North Highlands, Longo said, Walden was already under the influence of heroin. Miller said he advised Walden to turn himself in to authorities.

In a wooden shack behind the house, the two shot up some more heroin together, Longo testified, when Walden made an admission to Miller.

"He said he hit some guy and a dog," Longo said Miller told investigators.

The two then fell asleep.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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