It was a 20-year-old San Luis Obispo woman’s quick thinking that saved her from being strangled to death by a man who ambushed her outside her apartment in September, a prosecutor argued Wednesday in a court hearing for the woman’s alleged attacker.
Derrick Robert Moore, 26, of Atascadero, was in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for a preliminary hearing in which a judge ultimately decided probable cause exists to proceed to trial with the existing charges.
Moore faces four felony charges: attempted first-degree murder, first-degree residential burglary, assault resulting in great bodily injury and assault with a stun gun — charges that carry several enhancements for using a deadly weapon, inflicting great bodily injury and committing a serious offense within five years of a prior prison term.
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According to testimony given by the woman and other witnesses for the prosecution Wednesday, Moore confronted her as she was leaving her apartment, assaulting her with a stun gun and forcing her to the ground, repeatedly punching and strangling her.
Her roommate witnessed the attack and called 911.
As she was being held on the floor of the apartment, the woman used a small knife on her key chain to jab at Moore’s right side, causing him to flee just as officers arrived, about three minutes after the 911 call.
Had she not (pulled her knife), the court would be hearing a murder case.
Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede
Police found Moore hiding in a creek area behind Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, with multiple stab wounds to his upper right side and shoulder area. Officers testified that Moore’s car was found in the parking lot, engine running, with the trunk slightly open and a five-inch knife in the center console.
He has remained in the San Luis Obispo County Jail since his arrest with his bail set at $500,000.
The alleged victim suffered a broken nose, lacerations to her face, abrasions to her neck and injuries to her hands. She said Wednesday that she still experiences back pain from the attack.
The Tribune does not name victims of violent or other serious crimes.
The woman said she didn’t know Moore but she had seen him loitering in the apartment complex parking lot and had called police on one of those occasions, but he was gone by the time officers arrived.
She said Moore attempted to shock her with a stun gun in the shoulder but that it didn’t have much effect. That’s when Moore punched her in the face, she said, and started choking her.
San Luis Obispo police evidence technician John Lehr testified that Moore’s Vipertek stun gun had one bent electrical prong at its tip and next-to-no battery life when he examined it.
The evidence isn’t there for use of a deadly weapon.
Defense attorney Patrick Fisher
Under cross examination by Moore’s attorney, Patrick Fisher, Lehr said the stun gun in itself is not a deadly weapon, but that it could damage sensitive parts of the body and cause secondary injuries from falling. Lehr also agreed that the stun gun could have been used as a tool of intimidation.
Fisher argued that none of the evidence presented showed Moore was trying to kill the woman, but rather that he was trying to rob her. Fisher said testimony showed that Moore had a small knife on him during the attack and another in his car, and was carrying a partly broken stun gun.
“The evidence isn’t there for use of a deadly weapon,” Fisher said.
Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede, however, argued that Moore showed specific intent to kill, and that the alleged victim may have only survived by pulling out her small knife.
“Had she not done that, the court would be hearing a murder case,” Fede said.
Fede noted that the woman testified that Moore had attempted to strangle her, she was able to fend him off briefly, and then he grabbed her neck again until she was about to lose consciousness.
“The minute Mr. Moore put his hands around the neck of (the victim), that’s intent to kill,” Fede said. “She was within minutes or even seconds of death.”
Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy said the totality of the testimony — Moore’s previous loitering in the neighborhood, leaving his car running and the violence against the victim — showed probable cause of his intent to kill.
Court records show Moore has two prior convictions from 2009 for burglary and attempted burglary. A conviction on any of the current charges would count as a third strike under California’s Three Strikes Law, according to Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham. A Third Strike would mean life imprisonment.
Moore is due back in court for a second arraignment April 6.