Traffic began to back up behind the crash immediately. One witness stuck in the traffic jam told authorities he saw two men walking away on the shoulder of the road, headed south toward the Lomas Santa Fe exit. He said one man was wearing a blue Charger jersey and “One was on the cell phone.”
Records showed Sudac’s cell phone called his wife’s cell phone starting at 1:03 a.m. that night. Sudac made four more calls to her in quick succession, the last one at 1:14 a.m. His wife’s cell phone called him back at 1:05 a.m. and 1:09 a.m.
In court, prosecutor Natalie Villaflor said that Sudac’s wife came to pick him up in a blue Dodge pickup truck. The truck, registered in her father’s name, had blood spots on the passenger’s seat when investigators looked at it later. DNA from the five blood spots matched Sudac’s DNA.
DNA tests showed that the blood on the driver’s airbag in the Nissan belonged to Sudac.
Witnesses said that from where Sudac and his companion stood on the side of the freeway, they had a clear, unobstructed view of Yine, who lay facedown near the trunk of their car. Blood from her head ran under the Nissan. This was shown in many of the crime scene photos displayed in court.
Huss reported hearing Sudac yell into his cell phone before he disappeared, “There’s been a terrible accident. I need you to come pick me up right fucking now!”
About 20 witnesses were called to the stand who said they were on the freeway that night, and they all said that they did not see Sudac offer help or ask about anyone’s well-being or give his contact information.
Bad Memories All Around
Investigators found an address for John Francis Sudac Senior.
The elder Sudac told highway patrol officers that he did not know where his son lived, he did not know his son’s whereabouts that night, and he did not know his son’s cell phone number.
The lead investigator, Patrick Holt, said of the senior Sudac, “He was polite” and “He did not provide us any information.”
Highway patrol officer Michael Bush was more blunt, describing Sudac Sr. as “basically useless.” Bush said they contacted Sudac Sr. at about 3:45 a.m., almost three hours after the crash.
Cell phone records showed that the phone belonging to Sudac Sr. called his son’s cell phone three times that morning, at 3:18 a.m., 3:20 a.m., and 3:26 a.m., according to a Verizon Wireless analyst who testified.
Sudac Jr., accompanied by a defense attorney, turned himself in at 6:45 p.m. on January 4. Eighteen hours after the collision, his blood was taken, and the analysis showed no alcohol or drugs in his system at that time. Sudac was taken into custody. He posted $200,000 bail the next day.
The second man in the Nissan went unidentified for more than two years, until this March, one month before Sudac went on trial for hit-and-run manslaughter.
The Man in the Passenger Seat
At a preliminary hearing in January 2009, it appeared that defense attorney Herb Weston would build a defense based on the fact that the second person in the Nissan had not been identified and therefore reasonable doubt could be created as to who was driving the car.
But investigators had found shredded Charger tickets in Sudac’s apartment. In the ensuing months, they pieced the tickets together, and lead investigator Holt got a search warrant to obtain information about season ticketholders who sat near Sudac. When Holt found Sara Anderson, eventually she showed him the picture of Sudac and the man in the black cap. This January, investigators put a rush on a DNA test for the black cap they had removed from the Nissan. The DNA profile came back on March 15 as a match for Eliseo Jimenez, whose DNA was already on file because of a felony conviction.
It took an investigator for the district attorney’s office, Tom Morgans, two weeks to track down Eliseo Jimenez, who was said to live in the Bonsall-Fallbrook area. Jimenez said he was surprised when an investigator showed up and asked for a DNA swab of his mouth.
Eliseo Jimenez, who is no relation to Vinicio Jimenez, the driver of the Ford Explorer, said that Sudac had picked him up at his home in Fallbrook the Saturday of the playoff game. The time stamp on the parking-ticket stub showed they arrived at the stadium at 2:08 p.m. The game didn’t start until about 5:00.
Jimenez said he drank and partied before the game, but Sudac did not. “I never saw him drinking.” Jimenez could not remember Sudac drinking that afternoon, during the game, or after the game. “I didn’t see him drinking.” What time did they leave the parking lot that night? “I’m not sure.” Where did you all go for dinner that night, after the game? “I can’t remember.”
In sworn testimony during trial, Jimenez said that Sudac drove the Nissan as they headed for home after midnight. Do you remember the car crash? “No, I don’t.” You don’t remember the Nissan hitting the Ford? “I don’t remember anything from that car accident,” Jimenez said in the witness box. “I believe I was knocked unconscious.” Do you remember walking away from the crash scene on the shoulder of the highway? “I don’t remember anything.” Prosecutor Villaflor demanded to know the next thing that he did remember. “Pretty much, I remember waking up at John’s house,” Jimenez said. “My girlfriend, she came, picked me up from John’s house.”
So how did he learn that he had been in a car crash? Jimenez said it was Sudac’s wife Alexia who told him, “There was an accident with another vehicle.” Jimenez said days later he learned that a woman died in the crash. Didn’t he know police were looking for him, the other person who was in the Nissan? “Yeah, I heard about that,” Jimenez admitted. But he never tried to contact investigators because he said his pal Sudac “did the right thing” by turning himself in. Jimenez decided there was “not much more to say about anything.”