A Marine was “abnormally intoxicated” and in no condition to drive before allegedly crashing into another car on the wrong side of the freeway, killing two medical students, his best friend testified Tuesday.
During his preliminary hearing, active duty Marine Jason Riley King, 21, sat in a halo brace as he listened to his friend and fellow Marine Hannah Talbott emotionally recount the events leading up to the deadly May 16 crash. The judge ordered he stand trial on two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while impared, DUI causing injury with three great bodily injury allegations, driving with blood alcohol in excess of .08 causing injury with the allegations. If convicted, he faces 47 years to life.
Prosecutors say early that morning, King had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 when he drove the wrong way onto State Route 163 and collided head-on with a Toyota Prius, killing UC San Diego medical students Anne Li Baldock, 24, and Madison Elizabeth Cornwell, 23. King, an Oklahoma resident stationed at MCAS Miramar, has pleaded not guilty to charges against him.
Talbott said the night of May 15, the two had driven separately to In Cahoots, a country bar in Mission Valley. As soon as they walked in, they headed for the shot bar, where Talbott said she bought a shot of whiskey for each of them. They then ordered another strong drink and went upstairs to play pool.
Talbott said as the night progressed, she noticed King was stumbling and couldn't hold on to his pool stick well. "I know him well enough to know that meant he had drank too much and that we needed to leave,” she testified.
Telling him to meet her downstairs, she walked into the restroom. However, she received a voicemail from King while inside, saying he had been kicked out.
Talbott confronted him in the parking lot. “I told him that we should just go back to my apartment. He was in no condition to drive,” she said, calling him “abnormally intoxicated.”
King argued with her and said “he got himself there and he was capable of getting himself home,” Talbott told the court.
Standing in the parking lot, the two briefly argued before Talbott said she backed away, yelled something at him and drove off in her own car.
During cross-examination, Talbott told the defense she could not recall the number of drinks the two had through the night. When asked if she was drunk as well, Talbott admitted, “I was.”
Prosecutors have previously alleged that King was drinking with friends at the Mission Valley Hotel before meeting up with Talbott.
Gary Martin, a manager at In Cahoots, took the stand next at King’s preliminary hearing. He said a security guard first alerted him to King that night, and Martin approached him on the bar’s second floor.
"He was hunched over the backside of the bar area… and he was kind of leaning up against the railing and then holding his head,” said Martin.
The manager introduced himself to King and asked him to come outside for a talk. When the two started down the stairs, Martin said he noticed King was limping, so he was not sure if the Marine was injured or intoxicated.
Outside, Martin said he watched as King made a phone call and stood up without wobbling. When he heard King start up his truck, Martin approached him and said, "Why don't you let us get you a ride home?" King refused the officer, according to Martin.
"To me, it felt like he was more determined to leave than to listen," he testified.
As the defense questioned him, Martin said he did think King was drunk when he drove away.
"Where you concerned enough to call police?" the defense attorney asked. Martin responded with, "At that point, no." No one from the bar called 911 that night, the defense pointed out.
At preliminary hearings, the defense is not required to lay out its case, so the attorneys did not address why they say their client is innocent.