Hayes trial to start today
Opening statements in the murder trial of Lauren Hayes are scheduled to begin this morning in Nevada County Superior Court.
The trial has been in the jury selection phase since Feb. 22, with a few delays due to bad weather and illness.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense have seated 11 women and one man for the jury, along with three alternates; two women and one man.
Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson will give his statements first, he said Tuesday evening.
Hayes, 24, of Cascade Shores, is accused of robbing and murdering Lawrence Leffingwell, who was found shot in the back of the neck inside his Cadillac at Edward’s Crossing at the Yuba River on Sept. 5, 2003.
Hayes had a brief relationship with Leffingwell that ended after he accused of her of stealing from him, according to Leffingwell’s family and friends.
Hayes told investigators the murder was drug-related and pointed to Joshua Everton, of Cedar Ridge, as an accomplice. Everton was arrested and then released because the evidence did not match with Hayes’ statements, investigators said.
Hayes pleaded innocent to the charges on Sept. 24, 2003.
In months leading up to the trial, Public Defender Thomas Anderson filed a motion to have the murder charge dismissed, citing shoddy police work at the crime scene.
Anderson said deputies mishandled the murder weapon, a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger.
Handling the weapon without gloves when they first encountered it, Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies removed the rubber grips to retrieve a serial number, potentially contaminating any evidence that could have been on the gun.
Anderson also claims investigators contaminated or ignored possible footprints or tire marks at the scene, failed to process items from Leffingwell’s Cadillac including a pay stub and a jacket, and left Leffingwell’s car exposed to the elements without a driver’s side window for several months.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge John Darlington rejected Anderson’s motion Feb. 17, ruling that legal precedents from the California Supreme Court set out very narrow circumstances in which a case can be dismissed because evidence has been lost or destroyed, and this case does not meet those standards, he said.
In another motion filed a week later, Anderson requested material be stricken from the prosecutor’s opening statements, including allegations Hayes stole from her former boyfriends and hearsay statements that Leffingwell was contemplating reporting to the police Hayes was stealing from him.
Darlington said Feb. 28 he would not admit statements that Leffingwell was thinking about turning Hayes in because they cannot be corroborated.
The judge also said he would not admit statements that Hayes stole from old boyfriends she lived with.
However, he would allow testimony from a Placer County Jail inmate who said Hayes talked to her about the murder, and an allegation that Hayes murdered for money – approximately $400 Leffingwell signed for at a bank a few hours before his death.
Today’s opening statements are slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Nevada County Superior Court.
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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