The ex-girlfriend of hit-and-run suspect Jeffry Tsarnas says Tsarnas knew the car he was driving hit a person on Fernbridge on Nov. 27, 2018, and he also admitted that when the collision occurred, he spilled the milk and brandy cocktail that he was drinking while driving.
Barbara Craft, the main prosecution witness in the felony case against Tsarnas, has provided plenty of incriminating evidence against her former live-in boyfriend. But she may have lost some credibility today with jurors when she admitted that she once tried to get out of coming to court by telling law enforcement she had been “telling fibs” about what she knew.
Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, Craft insisted she lied about lying. And she said she was telling the truth today.
Tsarnas, 47, was charged with felony hit-and-run after he allegedly ran over a woman pedestrian about 5:30 p.m. on Fernbridge, breaking her left foot and ankle. Tsarnas continued on his way to the nearby casino and didn’t arrive home in Myers Flat until about midnight. When he pulled in Craft was furious because he had taken her car without permission as she lay sick in bed.
She walked out to meet Tsarnas when he drove in, Craft said, and saw her car was damaged.
“My mirror was missing off my car and I wanted to know why,” Craft testified. She asked “What the fuck did you do my car?”
As Craft yelled for about 15 minutes, Tsarnas tried to explain he had hit something on Fernbridge.
“He thought a dog might have fallen out of someone’s truck,” Craft recalled.
She went back to bed and Tsarnas went to the living room, she said, when she heard him say “I hope I didn’t hit a person.”
Under cross-examination by defense attorney April Van Dyke, Craft acknowledged that today was the first time she’d ever told anyone that Tsarnas made that statement.
The next morning, Craft said, she saw a Lost Coast Outpost report about a hit-and-run on Fernbridge. The article included a photo of what she recognized as the mirror missing from her car.
She started yelling at Tsarnas about hitting a person, and he replied “Oh shit.”
She told Tsarnas he needed to go to the police.
Rees asked Craft how Tsarnas reacted.
“Of course he was scared. He wanted to go get another mirror and wait a few days.”
“Did he say why he wanted to wait?”
“He wanted to make sure he was clean for drugs, in case he was tested.”
Craft said both she and Tsarnas were daily methamphetamine users at the time.
But Tsarnas did call the Sheriff’s Office and was referred to the California Highway Patrol. Craft and Tsarnas drove to the CHP Office in Arcata and were interviewed. When they were allowed to leave without the car being impounded, Tsarnas was reportedly relieved because the spilled liquor on the floor would have been discovered.
Defense attorney Van Dyke questioned Craft about the new revelation that Tsarnas brought up hitting a person the night of the incident. Van Dyke asked whether she’d mentioned that to the CHP the day after the wreck.
Van Dyke than began questioning Craft about a possible reason for Tsarnas to be more alert than the average person about hit-and-run. But the jury never heard why: because Tsarnas’s 14-year-old daughter, Faith Lorraine Tsarnas, was killed in July 2016 by hit-and-run driver Marci Kitchen. Attorneys argued over that issue with the jury out of the courtroom.
Rees objected to Van Dyke bringing up the subject, suggesting Van Dyke was attempting to elicit sympathy from the jury. But if she did want to pursue that line of questioning, Rees said, he wanted to point out during closing arguments that Tsarnas, of all people, should be keenly aware of the consequences of drinking, hitting someone and speeding away.
“Which is exactly what Marci Kitchen did,” Rees said.
When the jury returned, Van Dyke did not ask more questions along that line.
Another witness, CHP Sgt. Matthew Harvey, testified about a phone conversation with Craft a couple of days after the collision. Craft told him that after they left the CHP station, she accused Tsarnas of knowing he’d hit a person.
He reportedly responded “Well, duh yes, but I’m not going to tell them that.”
Testimony was expected to continue tomorrow morning before Judge Timothy Canning.
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