Rider in truck describes fatal trip

She testifies woman was hit, driver kept going

officer tells of finding bloodied toddler

November 01, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,Sun reporter

Kenai Santos was seated in the back of a pickup truck, being driven home from a shopping trip by an older female friend, when, she said, she saw a woman appear in the truck's path.

The driver of the truck, Lazara Arellano de Hogue, honked her horn but continued driving, Santos testified yesterday in court, and the woman in the street appeared to have been struck.

"I saw her falling sideways," Santos said in Spanish through a translator.

Moments later, the truck turned onto a side street and Arellano de Hogue removed a stroller that was jammed underneath the truck, Santos said. Then the women got back into the pickup and drove away.

Arellano de Hogue, 41, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run in the Dec. 1 crash that left 3-year-old Elijah Cozart, who had been riding in the stroller, dead and his grandmother, Marjorie Thomas, seriously injured.

Yesterday, a Baltimore County police officer testified that he saw wet streaks containing clothing and debris that led from Goucher Boulevard, where the grandmother and child were struck, to Regester Avenue about a half-mile away. There he discovered first the stroller and then the boy, his body bloody and contorted, lying in a tire rut.

"As I approached him, his eyes focused on me," Officer Dominic Rizzo said. "His hands were opening and closing and he appeared to be breathing in rapid, short, choppy breaths."

As the boy's relatives in the courtroom wept softly, Rizzo testified that the boy's jeans were in shreds and the flesh on his left hip and thigh had been worn away. He radioed for a medic unit and told the dispatcher that if one didn't arrive soon, the boy likely would die, he recalled.

Although a medic unit arrived within a few minutes, "it felt like forever to me," Rizzo said.

The child was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Yesterday marked the third day of Arellano de Hogue's trial, which is being heard by Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge John O. Hennegan, and is scheduled to continue today. If convicted of the manslaughter, Arellano de Hogue could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

A native of Mexico, Arellano de Hogue speaks limited English and listened to a translator through an earpiece in the courtroom.

Dressed in a sweat shirt and frayed jeans, Arellano de Hogue sat motionless at the defense table yesterday. Although she wept earlier in the week as a medical examiner described the boy's extensive injuries, the only time she seemed to show emotion yesterday was when she smiled and waved at a couple of relatives sitting in the courtroom.

Santos, a 22-year-old native of Honduras, testified that she believed that the truck had struck the woman but that she had been under the impression that the stroller became caught under the truck later.

After Arellano de Hogue drove back to the apartment complex where she and Santos lived, Santos said she left her baby with a sitter and went to the older woman's apartment "because I knew they were going to come for us."

Baltimore County police Detective Steven Sodd testified yesterday that he found Santos "hiding" in the bathroom of Arellano de Hogue's apartment when he and another officer arrived. Both women were handcuffed and taken to a police precinct for questioning.

He said that he was unsure whether a Spanish-speaking officer was at the apartment, but that one was present at the precinct when the women were being questioned.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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