Crime - Sacto 911

Hit-run defendant revises timeline before fatal crash

Under cross-examination Wednesday, Paul William Walden admitted to details that never made it into the testimony he first offered the Sacramento Superior Court jury that is hearing his second-degree murder trial.

Rolling into Sacramento after his cross-country drive from North Carolina, Walden confirmed on cross-examination, he began putting calls in to heroin dealers as early as 6:16 p.m. the night he ran over two people and four dogs in a Carmichael crosswalk. He had testified Tuesday during questioning by his own attorney that he made his first heroin call at 8:43 p.m.

Walden also admitted that one of his first stops when he hit town was to pick up some clean needles in Citrus Heights, to inject himself with the drug that had him under its control. He also stipulated that he never said anything about falling asleep at the wheel in his first interview with law enforcement when he was arrested three days after the July 16, 2012, collision. Initially, he said he was distracted at the time of the crash.

Deputy District Attorney Kari Reeve, in her questioning of Walden, then sought to close the loop in what amounted to the prosecution's theory of the case: that he shot himself up with heroin in the parking lot of a Rite Aid about a mile away from the Garfield Avenue and Engle Road crash site, just a matter of minutes before he fatally slammed his 1987 Nissan Maxima into Harison Long-Randall, seriously injured the victim's girlfriend, Gemily West, and killed her four Australian cattle dogs.

On Tuesday, Walden told the jury he pulled into the drugstore at Manzanita Avenue at Cypress Avenue to use the restroom and to top off his radiator with water and his crankcase with oil. Reeve, in her questioning Wednesday, suggested the 36 minutes or so that he spent at the Rite Aid and its environs were not quite so innocent, that he actually acquired his needles for the purpose of getting high right then.

"Filling your car up with water isn't illegal, is it, but sitting in a parking lot shooting up heroin is, correct?" Reeve asked Walden.

Walden denied doing his mainlining in the Rite Aid parking lot. Reeve will argue to the contrary when the case is presented to the jury Monday.

According to the prosecution, Walden knew his behavior was reckless and that his getting behind the wheel in either his inebriated condition or his relentless pursuit of heroin was so dangerous that it amounted to implied malice – the necessary ingredient for a second-degree murder conviction.

Testimony in the case is expected to wrap up Thursday in front of Judge Patrick Marlette.

During his testimony Tuesday, Walden said he fell asleep at the wheel and was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the 10 p.m. crash that killed Long-Randall, who was 21. Walden picked up his story Wednesday under direct questioning from his lawyer, Michael Long, saying the last thing he remembered before he fell asleep was driving southbound on Garfield, coming to a halt at a stop sign at Gibbons Drive three blocks from the collision site and then starting to move forward again.

Authorities said that just before he ran into Long-Randall, West and the dogs in the crosswalk, Walden, 32, sheared off a wooden stop sign at freeway-type speeds. He sped south without slowing down, hitting his brakes, skidding or screeching, according to testimony from prosecution witnesses.

Walden testified under Long's questioning on Wednesday that when he woke up after hitting the stop sign, "I seen what appeared to be a man and a dog in front of me." He said when he came to, "I heard something very loud. It was in front of me, on top of me. It seemed like it was all around me."

The impact, he said, was "almost instantaneous."

"I knew I hit the dog," Walden testified. "I didn't really know if I hit the gentleman or not, but I felt a small impact, yes."

Asked by Long what he was thinking right after the crash, Walden said, "I was in panic mode. I didn't know if I necessarily hit the guy. I knew I hit the dog. I was selfish in my thinking. I knew I didn't have a license," and he said he was worried about going to jail. "I just wanted to get out of there," he said.

Walden had just returned to the Sacramento area from North Carolina at the time of the collision. He testified Tuesday he was in search of drugs at the time of the wreck.

When Long asked Walden why he never reported the crash to police, the defendant replied, "I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I wanted to forget about it. I was scared to go to jail."

In cross-examination Wednesday, Reeve, the deputy DA, walked Walden through his 14-year history of drug use before the night of the crash. Walden confirmed that he had used heroin, Oxycontin, Xanax, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and other opiates.

Walden also confirmed he had three drug-related convictions for driving under the influence in 2001, 2003 and 2005, that he was placed in a drug diversion program after one of his convictions, and that he failed it – the result, he said, of "too many dirty tests."

He also testified that in his first interview with law enforcement he failed to mention anything about falling asleep at the wheel. Instead, he told California Highway Patrol investigator David Longo he was distracted while he looked for phone numbers and directions in his car.

"You had plenty of opportunity to tell Officer Longo you were drowsy and fell asleep, correct?" Reeve asked Walden in her cross-examination.

"I did," Walden replied, "but it sounded worse to say I fell asleep."

Walden testified during Long's questioning that he didn't buy his heroin until around 11 p.m., at an apartment building at Watt and Whitney avenues. Reeve pushed to establish that the purchase was made ahead of the collision. She got Walden to confirm that he had as many as five phone conversations with one of his favorite heroin connections in the three hours and 44 minutes before the collision, starting with the one at 6:16 p.m. The last one took place at 9:12 p.m., about 48 minutes before the wreck, Walden said, looking at his phone records on the courtroom projector.

At about 9:22 p.m., a security camera at the Rite Aid on Manzanita and Cypress caught Walden walking inside. He testified he just wanted to use the restroom. Reeve asked: Wasn't it really true he was there to get some clean and cheap needles? Walden denied it, saying that he had already picked up his syringes at another store in Citrus Heights.

According to Reeve, the cameras clocked Walden in the Rite Aid for 18 minutes, about 18 minutes before a red light camera picked him up at an intersection making a left from Manzanita onto Cypress, on his way to Garfield.

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