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Witnesses saw victim in a fight

Witnesses for the defense in the Lawrence Leffingwell case raised the possibility of a different scenario in testimony Tuesday 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 responsibility for the shooting out of fear of a possible life sentence were the case to go to trial.



Public Defender Tom Anderson brought witnesses 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 he would set a sentencing date at that time. Sentencing is expected in June, after the county Probation Department interviews Hayes, reviews the case and makes a written recommendation.




At the next hearing, Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson also may bring more witnesses. It is not clear whether Hayes will take the stand.

Wolfson is trying convince Darlington that Hayes deserves the maximum sentence. Voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 6 to 11 years.

In testimony, motorist Kelvin Nielsen said he saw what looked like a confrontation at Edward’s Crossing between 7 and 8 p.m. on Sept. 5. It was between a man who looked like the 50-year-old Leffingwell – whom Nielsen described as resembling Gandalf in the movie “Lord of the Rings” – and a 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,” Nielsen said. Other people were standing nearby, he added.

A short while before that, another man saw Leffingwell, 50, at the popular summer recreation spot with a younger woman who had long, wavy, light brown hair – a description that matches Hayes.

Kevin Matthews said he drive by between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and saw the two talking near Leffingwell’s older model Cadillac and a light-colored pickup.

Diana Soldavini-Coronel was a friend of Leffingwell who also testified. She had told Leffingwell that she did not approve of his relationship with Hayes. Hayes was living with him and had come to stay after ending a relationship with another man.

“She was too young, she had a child,” Soldavini-Coronel said. “He had said he would never be with a young lady with a dependent child.”

Soldavini-Coronel also testified that Leffingwell believed that Hayes had taken some 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.”

On Tuesday, Hayes was wearing a brown suit and taking notes on a yellow pad as she sat at the defense’s table.

About eight relatives and friends of Leffingwell sat in the court room. Hayes’ parents sat behind their daughter.

Leffingwell was found lying outside of his vehicle at Edward’s Crossing with a fatal gunshot wound to the back of his neck shortly after 8 p.m.

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To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, e-mail trinak@theunion.com or call 477-4231.


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