Murder suspect William “Bill” Hinson took the witness stand Thursday in his own defense, denying he was the person who killed Georgia tourist Khanh Lam by striking him on the head during a fight behind the Blue Room bar in Garberville.
Hinson, although seriously tripped up on cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, stuck to his story: He ran with a group of people to see why a woman was screaming near the Garberville town square. He saw an Asian man trying to take a child out of a van, and punching the screaming woman who was trying to stop him. But when the Asian man mentioned a gun, he took off.
Under questioning by his attorney, Pubic Defender Marek Reavis, Hinson said he and others working at a marijuana grow site near Alderpoint had come into Garberville on July 18, 2015, to pick up supplies. He was visiting with people on the town square when a woman began screaming.
“Leave me alone! Get off my kid! Get back!” Hinson recalled the woman yelling. He and others on the square, including his co-worker Ray Preschern, ran to see what was happening. They saw someone attempting to take a child out of a van parked near the square.
“I noticed an Asian male leaning into the van trying to take a child out,” Hinson said. “The mother got between the Asian male and the kid and he was punching her.”
Preschern approached and shoved the man back, Hinson said, and he also pushed him once. He said the Asian man kicked out at him, connecting lightly with his leg. When the Asian man said something like “Homie go get my gun or I’m going to get my gun,” Hinson used his “common sense” and fled.
“I didn’t want to be involved because I didn’t know if there was a gun,” Hinson testified. “I grabbed my dog, my backpack and left the town square.”
As he headed down Church Street in Garberville, he saw a large group of people running. He didn’t stop to see what was going on.
“I was worried about someone having a gun. I was trying to get out of there as fast as I can.”
Hinson said he headed north on Redwood Drive, passed Veterans Park and went to a campsite that was permanently set for when the marijuana workers traveled to Garberville. About 4 p.m. that day, he and others from the grow site left Garberville and went back to the site.
Not only was he not involved in the fatal assault on Lam, Hinson said, he never spoke about it to anyone afterward. He denied Preschern’s testimony that he heard Hinson saying he was the one who swung a board at Lam’s head, and that he had done “what I had to do.”
“I never said that or anything like that,” Hinson stated.
He said all he heard about the incident was rumors that the victim in the incident was in the hospital.
Tape from a video surveillance camera shows Hinson and his dog crossing an intersection after the assault on Lam. At one point he looks over his left shoulder. Reavis asked him why.
“I didn’t know whether this guy had a gun. I didn’t know if his homeboys were coming. I didn’t want to get shot in the back.”
Hinson said he also was speaking to Danny Lovato, owner of the flower shop in Garberville, to warn him.
“I said the dude’s talking about getting a gun, or he’s talking about his homeboys getting a gun.”
Reavis asked whether Hinson had ever struck Lam with a board, a stick or “anything else.”
Then came the prosecutor’s cross-examination.
“The only contact you ever had with the Asian male was when you pushed him?” Rees asked.
“I did not see what happened.”
Hinson insisted he was absolutely certain he had no part in the attack.
“Then why did you send a letter to (District Attorney) Maggie Fleming saying you could identify who was involved?”
“I wanted to talk to her.”
“How could you give up the rest of the people involved when you didn’t see anything?”
“Me and Ray (Preschern) had a quick conversation online.”
Rees pointed out that Hinson previously testified he’d had no conversations about the incident.
“This was way after,” Hinson said. “It was a brief conversation.”
Preschern, during his testimony, said he messaged Hinson on Facebook because he was angry that he appeared to be the only suspect and he wanted Hinson to come forward. Preschern admits he beat Lam unconscious but denies inflicting the devastating blows to Lam’s head.
According to Preschern, he sent Hinson a message saying that if he didn’t turn himself in, he was going to come and knock him out and drag him to a police station. He said Hinson responded by sending him a picture of a gun, with the words “I’m ready.”
Hinson’s take on the Facebook exchange was that Preschern was upset because people were “throwing him under the bus for a murder” and he wanted Hinson to come and help him out.
As for the picture of the gun, “I don’t own a gun. I didn’t send a picture.”
Preschern deleted the messages in question, so it’s unknown what was said.
Rees referred back to the letter Hinson sent Fleming, in which he referenced Lam being kicked repeatedly in the head and struck with a metal pipe. Hinson said he learned that information by reading his “discovery,” or witness statements and other evidence in his case.
“How can you identify who was involved? Do you know who did it?”
“I can’t be sure.”
Rees then asked about Hinson’s claim that Lam kicked out at him, connecting lightly. During recorded phone calls placed from the jail, Hinson reportedly said he punched and slapped Lam. He also said Lam kicked him hard and he fell.
Hinson denied making those statements. Then Rees played part of a tape-recorded phone call.
“The dude kicked me, he kicked me in the gut,” the man on the phone said. “I was on the ground.”
“Is that your voice?” the prosecutor asked.
“It sounds like my voice.”
Confronted with Reginald “Green Man” Newlin’s testimony that Hinson swung the board at Lam’s head, and Kenneth “Kenny” Hunt’s testimony that Hinson swung the board at Lam in self-defense, and Preschern’s testimony that he was “99 percent sure” Hinson was there, Hinson said all that was untrue.
Hinson testified during earlier questioning about his arrest in November 2016 at his father’s home in Florida. He lived with his father, a retired deputy sheriff, except during May through September when he traveled to Southern Humboldt to work on marijuana farms. He did that every year from 2010 until 2015.
Hinson said a man came to his father’s door saying he was looking for a lost dog, showing him a picture of the dog. At one point the man reached into his jacket as though he was pulling a gun.
“I took off running and ended up getting tased,” Hinson recalled. It turned out the man at the door was a U.S. marshal, who arrested Hinson on a warrant for murder. He was extradited to Humboldt County in January 2017 and remains in custody.
The eight-man, four-woman jury now has almost two weeks to consider what they have heard so far. Defense attorney Reavis has one more witness to call, a doctor who can’t be available to testify until Feb. 19. Judge Larry Killoran ordered them to return to court that morning.
Lam, who was from Georgia, was reportedly on his way to meet family members at the Legoland amusement park. His presence in Garberville is a mystery. At the time of the attack, Lam had high levels of methamphetamine in his blood. He ended up brain-dead after his skull was cracked in four places.
- Man Brain Dead After Reported Altercation in Garberville; Sheriff’s Office Investigating
- Last Week’s ‘Falling’ Death in Garberville Now Considered a Homicide
- One Arrested in Connection With Last Year’s Saturday Afternoon Homicide in Downtown Garberville
- Man Accused of 2015 Garberville Killing Appears in Court After Being Extradited From Florida; Man Formerly Accused of the Murder Released
- Preliminary Hearing Scheduled for Man Suspected of 2015 Garberville Murder
- Over Two Years Later, Suspect to Stand Trial on Charges of Beating Georgia Man to Death in Downtown Garberville
- Witness to 2015 Downtown Garberville Murder Testifies That Victim Attempted to Kidnap Girl From a Van
- Two Witnesses to 2015 Garberville Murder Provide Conflicting Testimonies
- Eyewitness to Garberville Killing Says Higher Power Has Forgiven Suspect; Testimony Suspended Until Wednesday
- SoHum Murder Victim Had ‘Potentially Toxic’ Levels of Meth in His System, Pathologist Says