Paragraph one reads: " A Joshua Tree man accused of running over a well-known photographer and then fleeing the scene only to be involved in another collision a short time later will be held to answer for the man’s death in Joshua Tree Superior Court. Judge Debra Harris last week found probable cause to hold Daniel Howell answerable based largely on testimony from California Highway Patrol officers during a lengthy preliminary hearing Thursday."
Paragraph 19 reads: "Brewer added Howell told him he was on blood pressure medication and an anti-depressant called Lexapro."
SSRI Stories Note: The Physicians Desk Reference states that antidepressants can cause a craving for alcohol and alcohol abuse. Also, the liver cannot metabolize the antidepressant and the alcohol simultaneously, thus leading to higher levels of both alcohol and the
Officers describe scenes of destruction
By Jutta BiggerstaffPublished: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 2:47 AM CST
For the Hi-Desert Star
JOSHUA TREE A Joshua Tree man accused of running over a well-known photographer and then fleeing the scene only to be involved in another collision a short time later will be held to answer for the man’s death in Joshua Tree Superior Court. Judge Debra Harris last week found probable cause to hold Daniel Howell answerable based largely on testimony from California Highway Patrol officers during a lengthy preliminary hearing Thursday.
Howell, 57, of Joshua Tree, is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run resulting in injury or death.
Prosecutors allege Howell was under the influence of drugs Sept. 16, 2009, when he plowed his 1996 Mazda pickup truck into Alberto Jose Serejo, 51, of Denmark, and drove away.
Serejo was photographing models near the Joshua Tree Inn shortly after 5 p.m. when the collision occurred. He suffered fatal injuries.
The first witness, Officer Eric Brewer, testified he was on his way to work when he noticed a small group of people who appeared to be agitated gathered near the inn. Upon investigation, he found “a gentleman lying in the gutter motionless.”
The off-duty officer called the CHP office and immediately began CPR. A short time later, Serejo was taken to Hi-Desert Medical Center, where he was declared dead at 6:22 p.m.
Officer Daniel Kelley testified that during the investigation, a witness stated she saw a pickup truck swerve onto the right shoulder of Twentynine Palms Highway near the Hi-Desert Playhouse, then move back onto the highway and drive away.
“She said she saw the pickup strike a man with his back against traffic,” Kelley said. “The truck went over the man and spit him out into the gutter.”
CHP Sgt. William Green said while investigating the hit-and-run collision, he received a call about a second crash at the intersection of California Street and Kimberly Road in Joshua Tree. Dispatched to that scene, Officer Jacob Griffith testified he found the defendant slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup.
“He seemed kind of out of it,” he said.
Griffith administered a field sobriety test, which he said Howell failed.
Griffith testified a witness saw the collision and approached the defendant, who she said was inhaling from a can. She was able to get the can and the car keys away from him before calling 9-1-1.
Attorney John Burdick, representing Howell, interjected to call attention to the fact that the defendant allegedly was seen inhaling the substance after the collision.
Griffith said in addition to five aerosol Dust-Off cans, he found damage to the truck’s bumper, headlight and grill. During his testimony, Green said he found pieces of plastic from a headlight and part of a grill at the scene of the fatal hit-and-run.
Howell was placed under arrest and taken to CHP headquarters, where he was further questioned and evaluated by Brewer, who testified as a drug-recognition expert.
It was during this evaluation that Howell learned someone had died, Brewer testified.
The officer said that while some of Howell’s responses were within acceptable ranges, he exhibited the symptoms of someone under the influence of a combination of drugs. He said Howell’s pulse was elevated, his speech and coordination were slow and his face was flushed.
“I formed the opinion that Mr. Howell was under the influence of an inhalant and a depressant,” he said.
Brewer added Howell told him he was on blood pressure medication and an anti-depressant called Lexapro.
During a break in the hearing, Howell’s wife, Gloria, said her husband “feels bad for the family” of the victim, but the collision was not something he wanted to happen.
“It’s a tragic accident that unfortunately did happen to my husband, and I feel he’s being treated like he planned this out and he went and did it, which, no, he did not,” she said.
She admitted her husband takes prescription drugs, but she said he uses the aerosol cans in his construction business.
“He’s been the sole provider for my family, and everything’s gone now that we accumulated because of all this,” she said. “He’s suffered enough mentally. We’ll see what happens. I just pray to God that justice is served.”
Howell’s is due back in court today, when the judge will hear an arraignment on information and set the date for a pre-trial hearing.