SAN DIEGO (CNS and News 8) - A 19-year-old college student who's accused of failing to stop after hitting a 4-year-boy in South Encanto must stand trial on a felony charge of hit-and-run causing death, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Defense attorney Jeremiah Sullivan unsuccessfully urged Judge John Einhorn to reduce the felony charge against Samuel Metu to a misdemeanor.
Sullivan said the "tragic accident" happened around noon July 9 when Jameson Darapheth darted into traffic as Metu's attention was drawn to the victim's older brother walking a dog on the other side of Madrone Avenue.
Metu left the scene to get gas, but returned less than a half-hour later when he realized he had hit something, his attorney said.
Einhorn denied the defense motion to reduce the case to a misdemeanor, but told Sullivan he could renew the motion at a later time.
"This case should resolve," Einhorn told Sullivan and prosecutor Derek Grilz. "We've lost a little boy. There was no intent to harm that little boy by Mr. Metu whatsoever."
The victim's 12-year-old brother said Jameson tried to cross the street even though the older boy was yelling at him to stay put in front of his own home, said San Diego police Officer Christopher Velovich.
The 12-year-old said his little brother let one car pass, then darted into traffic and was hit by Metu's car, the officer testified.
"He felt and heard a bump," testified Detective Ronald Lemaster." and continued driving eastbound."
Catherine Metu, who was driving in front of her son so she could pay to fill up his car with gas at a local station, told the officer that he was acting "oddly" when he arrived at the gas station.
"She said her son told her he thought he hit something, but he wasn't sure what he hit," Velovich testified.
Detective Ronald Lemaster testified that Metu told him that he was looking at the 12-year-old boy and his dog "when he felt and heard a bump" and kept driving.
"He said it felt something like a speed bump," the detective said.
Metu was caught on surveillance camera at the gas station. A portion of that video was played at Tuesday's preliminary hearing.
"Atone point Mr. Metu drops to his knees, puts his hands on his head and looks toward the heavens," said deputy district attorney Derek Grilz. "The People feels this is a consciousness of guilt. He knew he killed someone.We're talking about a four-year-old child... killed in this case."
After leaving the gas station, Metu said he drove around for awhile to make sure his car was OK, the detective testified.
Traffic Officer George Maglaras testified that it didn't appear that Metu was speeding, nor were there any signs that he applied the brakes.
The victim -- who died of blunt force head injuries -- was apparently dragged about 46 feet, the officer said.
Metu, a football player, biology major and track athlete at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the felony charge. A readiness conference was set for Sept. 27 and trial for Oct. 18.
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