Attorneys For Gantan, Torres Open and Rest Cases in Elk Grove DUI Death Trial

September 16, 2013 | After close to three days of extensive testimony in the prosecution’s case, jurors today heard from only four w...

September 16, 2013 |

After close to three days of extensive testimony in the prosecution’s case, jurors today heard from only four witnesses in the defense of Heile Gantan and Ladonna Torres for their alleged roles in the vehicular death of Oscar Ivan Camero.

Gantan is being tried in Sacramento Superior Court for DUI, causing injury or bodily harm while driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident while Torres is being tried for leaving the scene of an accident in the May 29, 2011 crash that claimed the life of the 20-year old Elk Grove man.

The day’s proceedings were opened by Torres’ attorney Alina Mendez who called her client as her only witness. Torres’ testimony was characterized by her oft-repeated response to Mendez’s questions that she could not remember. 

In her testimony Torres said she could not remember details of the events on the evening of Saturday May 28 and the early hours of Sunday, May 29. Torres continually stressed her primary concern was getting Camero out of her 1989 BMW that was driven by Gantan that had flipped over in the southbound lanes of Power Inn Road in Elk Grove.

Torres, along with Gantan is accused of leaving Camero, who died at the scene, in the flipped car as police cars responded to the crash. Torres said she was going after a hysterical Gantan, who Torres claimed was leaving the scene. 

“She was crazy, running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” Torres said. 

In his cross examination, Gantan’s attorney Don Masuda sought to paint Torres as a jobless and habitual marijuana user noting her acknowledgement of near-daily use of the substance. Masuda also pressed Torres to admit she never saw Gantan, who was determined to have marijuana and alcohol in her blood stream, actually consume either substance.

In Deputy District Attorney Keri Reeve’s cross examination, Torres finally acknowledged that, Gantan, she and others were doing shots of rum and lemonade chasers in the hours leading up to the accident. Torres acknowledged during questioning while she was at the hospital for a medical exam she told police officers about the shots.

Noting that Torres also said that several of her friends felt that Gantan was responsible for Camero’s death because Gantan was drunk, Reeve attempted to tie Torres to it.

“If you know that Heile had been drinking, and smoking marijuana, and you still let her drive your car, would you agree that would make you somewhat responsible for causing Oscar’s death, right,” Reeve asked Torres.

“Yup,” Torres said as she wiped away tears.

For Gantan’s defense, Masuda called only two character witnesses, one of which was Gantan’s older sister, and his client.

The other character witness was Consorcia Apostol who said she has known Gantan for over 20 years and that the defendant was a role model who was always honest. Apostol said Gantan had been recognized for being a role model in their community group based on honesty and respect for elders.

When asked by Reeve under cross examination, Apostol acknowledged that she knew Gantan had a 2010 shoplifting conviction. Reeve pressed Apostol if she knew the circumstances of that arrest.

Reeve noted that Gantan was identified as one of three in the group of shoplifters and the only reason she was apprehended was that a member of the party was left behind in the store by Gantan and that person identified her.

“If it wasn’t for the friend she left behind, Heile would not have been caught,” Reeve said. Apostol acknowledged the facts of the story.

“Does it change your opinion at all that Heile went into this store to steal these shoes and she left her friend behind,” Reeve queried.

“Absolutely not, “Apostol said. Apostol went on to say that is not part of Gantan’s character and that she believes she would have eventually returned the stolen goods.

During his opening statements and questioning of his client, Masuda acknowledged the tests showed alcohol and marijuana in Gantan’s blood and that she was the driver of the car, but went on to say that her drinks had been alcohol-spiked without her consent.

Gantan said that after meeting with Torres at BJ’s restaurant in Elk Grove earlier in the evening, Torres and several of her friends went to Gantan's house on Garrity Way in Elk Grove. While there, Gantan said they baked cupcakes and she noticed the rum.

“I don’t know who bought it, but I know Ladonna was handling it,” Gantan said. “I thought she brought it into the house.”

She also said between midnight and 3 a.m. she did not smoke or drink anything but noted she was feeling tired around midnight.

During her testimony, Gantan said she did not knowingly drink alcohol or consume marijuana. She also said that in the time immediately leading up to the car ride that led to the accident, Gantan said that Torres asked her if she was interested in taking the illegal substance known as ecstasy to which she declined.

After that discussion, Gantan said her memory was fuzzy, but she does remember drinking lemonade at home, swaying in the car and then the police officers flashlight in her eyes after the accident.

When asked about the details of how it was determined that she would drive, Gantan said she cannot recall any of the details. Gantan noted that she did not even realize she left the house without her cell phone, wallet and keys until she returned home from her jailing.

“I don’t remember leaving my house, I don’t remember anything that happened in my house before my leaving,” she said. “I don’t remember.”

The trial will continue tomorrow at 10 a.m for witness rebuttals and it is expected the jury will be given instructions tomorrow afternoon with deliberations to start on Wednesday.  

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