Driver told police she hit `something,' officer says

Woman didn't know child was in stroller, he testifies

November 02, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,Sun reporter

A woman accused of crashing into a grandmother pushing her grandson in a stroller and then driving off, dragging the toddler for nearly a mile, told police that she knew she had struck something but didn't realize there had been a child in the stroller, a police officer testified yesterday.

Lazara de Arellano de Hogue told police that as she was driving her pickup truck down Goucher Boulevard she saw a woman with a stroller dart into the road and then she "hit something, but she didn't know what it was," Baltimore County Officer Manuel Rios testified.

Arellano de Hogue, a 41-year- old mother of two, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run in the Dec. 1 crash that killed 3- year-old Elijah Cozart and seriously injured his grandmother, Marjorie Thomas.

Police officers, tracing the license plate of the truck that witnesses had seen strike the pair, arrived at Arellano de Hogue's apartment about 20 minutes after the accident. After she told them that she had been driving the truck, they arrested her and another woman in the apartment, Kenai Santos, who had been a passenger in the truck, Rios said.

Rios, a New York native of Puerto Rican descent, testified that he later read both women their Miranda rights in Spanish and served as an interpreter as the women were being interrogated. Arellano de Hogue, a native of Mexico, and Santos, 22, who is from Honduras, speak limited English.

According to Rios, Arellano de Hogue told police that she did not know that she had struck a child and clapped her hands over her ears when she was informed that the toddler had died of his injuries.

Officer Tracie Eckstein, a Baltimore County police crash investigator, testified yesterday that she had driven Arellano de Hogue's truck along the same route to test it and found that visibility from the vehicle was not limited.

Witnesses who testified earlier in the week said that they screamed and pointed as they saw the pickup drive away from the crash site with the stroller jammed underneath.

Eckstein said that she found a blue-and-green stroller "twisted and mangled" in the driveway of a home on Regester Avenue, a little less than a mile from Goucher Boulevard at Colbury Road, where the crash is said to have happened.

Santos, who described Arellano de Hogue as her baby's godmother, testified Wednesday that the older woman pulled over on Regester Avenue and removed the stroller from under the truck.

The boy was later discovered in a tire rut nearby, and witnesses said he was moving. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Eckstein testified that she found "a piece of blue jeans with the front snap on it that appeared to be part of a child's jeans" on Regester Avenue. She also said she discovered what looked to be drops of blood on the truck.

Prosecutor Allan J. Webster questioned Eckstein for three hours yesterday about her observations of the truck and its alleged path. Defense attorney Ricardo Zwaig is set to cross-examine her this morning as the trial, being heard by Circuit Judge John O. Hennegan, moves into its fifth day.

Zwaig cross-examined Rios for more than two hours yesterday, suggesting that the officer's Spanish skills were lacking or that police did not properly prepare to interrogate Arellano de Hogue.

The Cozart family appeared frustrated by the lengthy cross-examination and shook their heads at times. Marsha Cozart, the boy's mother, rested her head on her husband Kevin's shoulder, and he patted her arm.

Today, Thomas, the child's grandmother, is expected to take the stand. She sat on a bench outside the court yesterday, speaking quietly to another woman. Her hip and leg were injured in the accident, and she walks with a pronounced limp.

Arellano de Hogue's boyfriend and two sons sat on a bench across from Thomas for most of the day. At times, the younger boy got up and stood by the courtroom door, craning his head to look through a window.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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