Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Yanaga was charged with attempted murder in Kern County. He was charged in Kings County.
A key witness in a North County murder case told a jury Thursday that she has memory problems, can’t hear very well, mixes dreams with reality and sometimes hears voices that tell her to do things.
“My hearing is messed up, but my memory is more messed up than my hearing,” Ashley Moss testified.
While Moss’s statements about the fatal shooting have varied, she has remained consistent with one detail: After an argument, Thomas Nolan Yanaga loaded a semi-automatic handgun in his kitchen, walked toward the garage and called out, “Hey, Marshall” before firing his gun multiple times.
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Yanaga, 53, of Paso Robles, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Marshall Savoy, 32, of Atascadero. According to the prosecution, Savoy was visiting Moss, who was staying at Yanaga’s property, on March 14 when he heard an argument between Yanaga and his wife. When Savoy went to the wife’s aid, the prosecution contends, an argument ensued and Yanaga shot the unarmed Savoy five times, including once in the back.
Yanaga has pleaded not guilty. After the shooting, he told police he defended himself when Savoy charged him.
On Thursday, forensic pathologist Gary Walter, who performed the autopsy on Savoy, said one of the bullets perforated Savoy’s heart, leading to massive bleeding. Wounds to Savoy’s hands, he said, were defense wounds.
In his opening statement Deputy District Attorney Charlie Blair said blood spatters on the ground showed that Savoy never moved toward Yanaga.
While Moss, 26, didn’t see the actual shooting, she testified that Yanaga had made a statement the night before that he wondered what it’d be like to kill someone. And seconds before shooting Savoy, she said, he had a “happy smirk” on his face.
While speaking to police closer to the time of the incident, however, she said Savoy had been angry and so intoxicated that he staggered when he walked and slurred his speech.
“Sometimes when he’s drunk, he’s kind of scary,” she allegedly told police.
Walter said Savoy’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent.
When asked why her testimony now differed from earlier statements to police, Moss repeatedly said she didn’t remember making the previous statements — and that she was high when she spoke to detectives. However, she said, she has been sober and taking medications for a mental illness while at the County Jail on unrelated charges, so her statements now are more reliable.
Moss said she relives the incident through her dreams.
“In my dreams something’s different always, and it’s hard to get it correct now,” she said.
Defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu asked if she could separate reality from dreams, given that she has abused drugs since she was 13.
“It has affected my dreams,” she said. “A lot of the times they seem real.”
During her testimony, Moss said a motorcycle accident that caused brain damage when she was 18 has caused her to have both long- and short-term memory loss. It has also impacted her hearing, she said.
“My hearing’s all messed up from that accident,” she said.
While she testified she only heard Yanaga call out “Hey, Marshall,” according to police reports filed shortly after the shooting she said she also heard Yanaga tell Savoy to leave.
As Funke-Bilu continued to press Moss on her testimony, she became agitated, at one point turning to Superior Court Judge John Trice and saying, “I’m starting to get pissed off right now.”
Jurors have not heard that Yanaga was charged with attempted murder in Kings County after he was released on bail in San Luis Obispo County.
He has pleaded not guilty in that case as well.