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Preliminary hearing begins in murder case against alleged Highway 14 wrong-way driver

Posted: February 13, 2014 5:50 p.m.
Updated: February 13, 2014 5:50 p.m.

SAN FERNANDO — A 47-year-old Lancaster man took the witness stand Thursday and described the head-to-toe injuries he suffered in a wrong-way-driver collision last summer that killed the other two occupants of his vehicle.

Lennard Wilds testified as a witness in the preliminary hearing of Bradford Elliot Pate, 38, of Burbank, who is charged with two counts of murder in the wrong-way crash on Highway 14 on June 22, 2013.

“I remember waking up in the hospital wondering how come I couldn’t move,” Wilds told those in the San Fernando Superior Court during the first day of Pate’s preliminary hearing.

Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Mykka Piantanida, Wilds pointed out he has to get around in a wheelchair now, suffered a broken pelvis in the crash and had a kneecap replaced.

But it was when Piantanida questioned him about his facial injuries that Wilds broke down and cried.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said, dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief.

“My chin was shattered and my teeth were knocked out,” he said. “My eye had some abrasions on it and the doctor is getting me some glasses because I can’t see that well out of my right eye.”

Wilds was riding in the backseat of a car driven by the Rev. Manard Giles, 77, of Quartz Hill. Riding in the front seat was Mattie Lee Ferguson, 60, of Lancaster. Both died of injuries suffered in the collision.

Giles led the Answer Community Church of God in Lancaster. The trio was returning home from a church conference in San Diego when Pate’s vehicle slammed into theirs head-on around 3:30 a.m. in the northbound lanes of Highway 14 at Escondido Canyon Road.

Thursday’s testimony got under way with a driver who said he saw the head-on collision.

Speaking in Spanish through an interpreter, Juan Camora told the court that he and six co-workers in his van were returning home to Lancaster from Valencia when he witnessed a small pickup truck traveling south in the northbound lanes collide with a car.

“When we saw the pickup truck coming in the opposite direction, everything happened in a second,” he said. “It was coming southbound in the lanes going northbound.

“When the impact happened, the car in the No. 2 lane came towards the van,” he said, describing how the head-on collision forced the Chrysler into the No. 3 lane and into the van.

During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors present evidence in their case, and the defense can respond, after which the judge decides if the case should go to trial.

Testimony resumes in the preliminary hearing on Feb. 19.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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