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CHP officer questions premise of Keene defense in drunken driving-murder trial

Posted: September 29, 2012 2:11 p.m.
Updated: September 29, 2012 2:11 p.m.

LANCASTER — A California Highway Patrol officer testified Friday an Agua Dulce man accused of killing a woman with his car could not have drunk enough to spike his blood alcohol content after the crash, as the defense contends.

Dennis Keene, 64, faces a murder charge for allegedly fatally striking Lori Lindlief with his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

His attorney claims Keene got drunk during the 20 minutes it took investigators to arrive at the scene after he realized he had struck the woman while she walked her four dogs with her fiancee in 2011.

“Due to his level of intoxication, I formed the opinion that he was unsafe to operate a motor vehicle,” said Officer Mario Hernandez, who conducted Keene’s field sobriety tests the night of the collision. “Typically, it takes the body about one hour to metabolize one drink.”

Keene is charged with murder and drunken driving in the 2011 crash that killed Lindlief, 55.

Hernandez testified for about two hours Friday. He followed nearby neighbor Rosa Elliot, who testified that Keene drove past the scene of the crime to his house after Lindlief was hit, and then returned eight to 10 minutes later. Both Lindlief and Keene lived on White Fox Lane.

Bates asked Hernandez if it was possible that an empty stomach could have affected Keene’s blood alcohol level enough to cause a spike while drinking after the crash.

“His blood alcohol level is not going to rise over half the legal limit within a half-hour,” Hernandez said.
Leading up to the accident, Keene played golf and poker at the Valencia Country Club and visited the bar at local restaurant Maria Bonita, according to witnesses.

A member of the country club, Joe Greiner, played poker with Keene the afternoon of the crash, but could not confirm that Keene was drinking anything more than a Coke.

James Fitzsimmons, former general manager of the country club, confirmed that Keene’s membership account receipt reflected an alcoholic drink purchase on the afternoon of the crash.

“Dennis had, at times, a tendency to drink more than he should,” Fitzsimmons said. When asked if it was difficult for him to testify against Keene, Fitzsimmons nodded and said, “He was a friend.”

Testimony will resume Tuesday at 11 a.m., according Antelope Valley Superior Court Judge Bernie Laforteza.

The trial is likely to continue until Oct. 12 due to the large number of witnesses, said Deputy District Attorney Susan Choi. “It’s going to go a while.”




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