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Lengthy trial expected for alleged street racers charged with murder

Posted: September 18, 2013 7:55 p.m.
Updated: September 18, 2013 7:55 p.m.

This file photo shows a "Happy Birthday" balloon, a candle and a stuffed animal sitting beside an oak tree at the site of the crash where Dakota DeMott was killed on Sand Canyon Road.

SANTA CLARITA - Justice is expected to move slowly for two young local men accused of being “street racers” and charged with murder in the traffic death of Dakota DeMott and, as a result, the case has been transferred downtown to a courtroom in Los Angeles, court officials said.

On Wednesday, Colt Sean Doherty, 19, and Thomas Joseph Vensko, 20, both of Canyon Country, appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court Room 102 - called the Complex Criminal Trial Panel - for the first time since their arrest more than a year ago.

Last week, San Fernando Superior Court Judge David B. Gelfound recommended the case be transferred to Los Angeles when he learned it was expected to be a lengthy trial, a clerk in Courtroom 102 said.

“It was transferred to LA because of the time element,” she said, referring to court documents on the case.

On Jan. 10, 2012, Dakota DeMott died when the Ford Mustang he was riding in slammed into a tree on Sand Canyon Road at Alamo Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Doherty is believed to be the driver of that car.

Vensko has been identified as the driver of the other car.

Initially, the two were arrested by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on suspicion of vehicular homicide.

Prosecutors with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, however, then filed second-degree murder charges against them, District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said at the time.

In May, as the two prepared for a preliminary hearing, details of a grand jury indictment against them were unsealed, revealing details previously undisclosed by prosecutors, District Attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison said at the time.

The indictment ruled out the need for a preliminary hearing, she said. Such a hearing would have had prosecutors present evidence, after which the judge would have decided if it should go to trial.

The indictment that sent the case to trial contains lists sections of California’s Vehicle Code which the pair allegedly broke on the night DeMott died.

Their alleged traffic violations include:
- participating in a speed contest and/or exhibition of speed
- participating in motor vehicle speed contests causing injuries
- reckless driving
- unsafe speed
- driving in excess of maximum posted speed limit
- driving at a speed exceeding 100 miles per hour
- driving on the other side of the roadway
- making an unsafe lane change

Since the two were arrested in August, Doherty has remained in custody while Vensko has not.

Doherty, who initially had his bail set at $1 million, now has bail set at $2.23 million as recommended by prosecutors acting on the grand jury indictment.

Prosecutors also wanted the judge to re-set Vensko’s bail to $1.2 million.

The judge, however, lowered Vensko’s bail “under protest by prosecutors” to $100,000, Robison said.

Vensko, who was released from custody in November after posting $100,000 bail on the initial charges filed against him, posted bond for a second time May 15 when he appeared in court and entered a plea of not guilty.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt


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