A judge has ruled there is enough evidence to hold the man accused of a hit-and-run crash that severely injured a woman in Ramona over for trial.
Chase Richard, 34, was arrested in October in unincorporated Ramona, less than 10 miles away from where 54-year-old Michelle Scott was struck earlier that month.
Michelle Scott was bicycling to work on northbound Highway 67 at 6:15 a.m. on Oct. 2, when she was struck from behind near Dye Road. She remains in what doctors are calling a "persistent vegetative state," according to her husband.
At Richard's preliminary hearing Thursday, a neighbor testified she briefly spotted his 2013 Ford Edge inside his garage. She said the vehicle was covered in cardboard and painted a different color.
"It was missing a license plate, it was a different color, and it wasn't a shiny black. It was kind of like a matte gray color, so that was definitely a red flag for me," said the witness, who a judge told NBC 7 not to identify.
California Highway Patrol investigators served a search warrant at Richard's home. Photographs displayed at his preliminary hearing showed the vehicle's damaged hood had been removed, along with headlights, and the front bumper. There was damage to the side of the vehicle with blue paint, matching the color of Michelle Scott's bicycle, according to an investigator.
Investigators also found a can of gray spray paint, apparently used to change the color of the car.
A CHP investigator testified the front bumper of the car was dumped behind a private dumpster of a home several miles away. Residents later found the bumper several weeks after the accident and called authorities.
A photograph of Michelle Scott's bike was also shown in court as it was found several miles away from the impact site. The rear tire had visible damage.
Investigators also testified that witnesses to the accident reported the vehicle's license plate, only to find out the plate was stolen from a rental vehicle. That vehicle, also a Ford Edge, was tracked to a hotel in Mission Valley where a visiting businessman had rented the car.
An investigator for the district attorney's office also presented phone records and pings on cell phone towers, that placed Richard's vehicle in Mission Valley at the time the license plates were stolen and in Ramona near the accident site.
Richard's defense attorney questioned the accuracy of those cell phone records.
In the end, Judge Lantz Lewis ruled there was enough evidence to hold Richard over for trial on seven criminal counts, including two counts of felony hit-and-run.
Despite a challenge from his attorney, Richard will remain in jail on a $2 million bail. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2020