Defense witnesses testify today in Hayes trial
Witnesses for the defense in the Lawrence Leffingwell case raised the possibility of a different scenario in testimony today relating to the man’s shooting death in 2003.
In the hour before his death at Edward’s Crossing on the South Fork Yuba River on the evening of Sept. 5, a passing motorist saw Leffingwell involved in a conflict with another man.
Lauren Hayes, now 24, is charged with manslaughter in Leffingwell’s death. In a plea agreement with the Nevada County District Attorney’s office, Hayes entered a no contest plea in which she does not admit guilt, but fears a possible life sentence were the case to go to trial.
Public Defender Tom Anderson brought witnesses today in the third day of testimony leading up to Hayes’ sentencing. Superior Court Judge John H. Darlington will continue the hearing at 1:30 p.m. April 4. Darlington said at that time he would set a sentencing date, which could come in June.
At the next hearing, Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson may bring more witnesses. It is not clear whether Hayes will take the stand.
Wolfson will attempt to prove that Hayes should be given the maximum sentence of 11 years. Voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 6 to 11 years.
Motorist Kelvin Nielsen testified that he saw what looked like a confrontation at Edward’s Crossing between 7 and 8 p.m. on the day Leffingwell died. He said he saw a man who looked like Leffingwell with another man who appeared to be from a cobalt-blue Dodge Ram pickup.
“His body posture told me he was in defense mode. Something wasn’t right,” Nielsen said of Leffingwell.
The other man “had his hand behind his back and his body posture told me he had a weapon….all my defense mechanisms went up.”
He also testified that there were several people standing near the two vehicles when the confrontation occurred.
Diana Soldavini-Coronel, a friend of Leffingwell testified she had told Leffingwell she did not approve of his relationship with Hayes. Hayes had come to stay with Leffingwell after ending a violent relationship with another man.
“She was too young, she had a child…. He had said he would never be with a young lady with a dependent child,” Soldavini-Coronel said.
She also testified that Leffingwell believed Hayes had taken money from him on at least two different occasions.
Upon cross-examination, Wolfson asked Soldavini-Coronel if Hayes had any habits that would cause Leffingwell to have a sexual interest in her.
“Of course, she’s a beautiful young girl, ” Soldavini-Coronel replied. “She would vacuum naked.”
Hayes was wearing a brown suit and taking notes on a yellow pad as she sat at the defense’s table.
There were about eight relatives and friends of Leffingwell in the court room, plus Hayes’ parents.
Leffingwell, 50, was found lying outside of his vehicle at Edward’s Crossing with a fatal gunshot wound to the back of his neck. He was shot at about 8 p.m.
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