Fresno driver to face murder trial for crash that killed Hoover High School student


Lisa Ellen Spoors, a former Fresno State graduate teaching assistant, will be put on trial for hitting and killing a 15-year-old Hoover High School student as he crossed the street near his school, a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Spoors is alleged to have been under the influence of a combination of illicit and prescription drugs when Spoors failed to see Rashad Al-Hakim Jr. crossing First Street on Oct. 4.

Police said Spoors did not stop to help Al-Hakim Jr., who died several days later from his injuries. Spoors left the scene but returned about 20 minutes later after contacting police.

On Friday, Judge Brian Alvarez found there was probable cause for Spoors to face a jury trial. The 39-year-old Spoors is charged with murder, driving under the influence of a drug while causing injury and hit-and-run resulting in permanent injury or death.

Alvarez acknowledged that this is a difficult case.

Marc Kapetan, the defendant’s attorney, pointed out that a Fresno police officer who analyzed the crash concluded Spoors did not have enough time to avoid hitting the teenager. And another officer, an expert in determining when a driver is impaired, found Spoors was not under the influence.

A toxicology expert used by the prosecution also concluded Spoors was not impaired and would be able to drive a motor vehicle, Kapetan said.

“How does a case like this get filed?” Kapetan asked.

Kapetan accused the District Attorney’s office of searching for a toxicologist who could support the prosecution’s theory that Spoors was under the influence.

Dr. Patil Armenian, a toxicologist and emergency room physician at Community Regional Medical Center, testified Thursday that based on her review of the toxicology reports and body cam footage of Spoors being interviewed by police, her conclusion was that Spoors should not have been driving.

Armenian said the toxicology report revealed the presence of several prescription drugs and methamphetamine. The drugs in Spoors’ system are typically used for the treatment of ADHD, anxiety, mental illness and seasonal allergies.

Armenian said the effect of those drugs would have slowed Spoors’s reaction time, and caused Spoors to be inattentive and confused.

During her testimony, Kapetan asked the doctor how much she was being paid by the prosecution. Armenian answered $6,400 a day, Kapetan said.

Prosecutor Steven Ueltzen did not waiver in his belief that Spoors was under the influence and it contributed to the death of Al-Hakim Jr.

Ueltzen introduced a voice mail message from Spoors to a friend shortly before Spoors struck Al-Hakim Jr. In the message, Spoors talks about meeting up with a colleague after class and getting “super stoned” in the parking lot at Fresno State.

“So I like left campus in my car and I started driving and didn’t really know where I was going, not thinking about it I guess, now I am trapped in Clovis and not able to make a U-turn,” Spoors says in the voice mail.

Ueltzen said Spoors made that call six minutes before the crash.

A judge had warned in 2008 when Spoors was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI that if Spoors was involved in a DUI crash and someone died, Spoors could be charged with murder.

If Spoors had been driving slower and been paying closer attention, the outcome would have different, Ueltzen said.

“We can see from the damage to the vehicle that if she had just applied her brakes, Rashad would have had a chance,” he said.