After he loaded a clip of bullets into a semi-automatic handgun, Thomas Yanaga had a “happy smirk” on his face, a witness testified Wednesday.
Seconds later, Ashley Moss told jurors, Yanaga entered his garage, called out, “Hey, Marshall!” and fired five rounds.
“It’s all I can think about,” Moss, a key prosecution witness, told jurors. “It’s, like, killing me every morning, having to relive it every day.”
Yanaga, 53, of Paso Robles, is on trial for second-degree murder. The District Attorney’s Office alleges that Yanaga shot and killed Marshall Savoy, 32, of Atascadero, on March 14 after Savoy came to the aid of Yanaga’s wife during a domestic argument at the Yanaga home.
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Yanaga’s defense attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, has said that Yanaga acted in self-defense after an angry Savoy — who has a history of violence — took off his shirt and charged him.
On Wednesday, Moss, Savoy’s girlfriend, told jurors she had been living at the Yanaga residence for about two weeks when the incident occurred. She said that Savoy had come to visit her and encourage her because she planned to enter a sober-living facility the next morning.
Savoy was also trying to beat substance abuse, she said.
“The whole relationship was us trying to get out of the slump and get out of that lifestyle,” said Moss, 26. “He had a big ol’ heart and wanted to help everyone.”
Yanaga, who had let her live at the home with his wife and 17-year-old son, was also a methamphetamine user, she said, and had supplied her with the drug.
At one point, Moss said that she, Yanaga and Savoy had discussed getting sober together and exercising.
Though she cried during her testimony, Moss was more composed on the stand than she was during a preliminary hearing in April. On Wednesday she apologized, saying she had “cussed the courtroom” during that testimony.
On the stand Wednesday, she said she has been a drug abuser since 13 and suffered a brain injury at 18 when she crashed while doing a wheelie on a dirt bike.
That injury caused her to have long- and short-term memory loss, she said.
On the night of the shooting, she said, Savoy was visiting her in a trailer on Yanaga’s property when they heard Yanaga and his wife arguing at the house. Savoy went to the house, Moss said, and soon after she heard Savoy angrily say, “You don’t treat women like that. Treat women with respect. I have daughters.”
Three days after the incident, Moss recalled Wednesday, she had told detectives that Savoy was a “hothead” who sometimes got out of control when he was drunk.
As Savoy and Yanaga argued, Moss testified, she walked to the back of the house and peeked in through a kitchen window. There, she said, she saw Yanaga enter the kitchen casually and grab a gun.
After loading a clip into the gun, she said, “He had a smirk — a happy smirk.”
Then Yanaga walked toward the garage where Savoy and Joyce Yanaga were, she said.
“I heard five shots,” Moss said. “They were quiet, though. It was weird.”
Afterward, she testified, she heard Yanaga say to his wife, “Call 911 quick — before someone else does — and say he’s an intruder.”
“He wasn’t, like, an intruder at all,” Moss added.
Moss said she found Savoy’s body lying curled up in the driveway.
“I ran up to him,” she said. “I saw him laying there on his side.”
As she heard Joyce Yanaga approach, Moss said, she ran and hid in the backyard.
“I was afraid that Tom was going to kill me or something,” she said.
The night before the shooting, Moss testified, she, Yanaga and another man were talking about a movie when Yanaga said, “I always wondered what it’d be like to kill somebody.”
On cross-examination by the defense attorney, Funke-Bilu, Moss admitted some of her testimony conflicted with previous statements. She said she was high during those statements, in shock and paranoid.
She still has post-traumatic stress disorder and bouts of paranoia, she said.
“I have a $500 hit on my head right now,” she said. “But it seems like nobody cares about that.”