Bail denied for Paso Robles murder suspect after second arrest

Thomas Nolan Yanaga, 52, of Paso Robles was arrested Saturday, March 14, 2015, on suspicion of murder. Original story »
Thomas Nolan Yanaga, 52, of Paso Robles was arrested Saturday, March 14, 2015, on suspicion of murder. Original story »

A Paso Robles man facing a murder charge in the shooting death of Atascadero resident Marshall Savoy will remain in San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail as he awaits trial, a Superior Court judge ruled Monday morning.

Thomas Nolan Yanaga, 52, is accused of killing Savoy, 32, after an argument at Yanaga’s home the evening of March 14.

His attorney claims he shot Savoy in self-defense, and he has pleaded not guilty.

Yanaga posted $1 million bail on April 8 and was released from County Jail. He was arrested again April 15 on suspicion of attempted murder in Kings County after he and two other men were allegedly involved in the shooting of a Hanford man over the sale of a motorcycle.

The victim of that shooting suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen but is expected to recover.

Over the weekend, Kings County officials released Yanaga to San Luis Obispo authorities to continue proceedings in his murder case.

Monday’s preliminary hearing had been delayed for two weeks after the prosecution’s main witness, Ashley Moss, whom Savoy was visiting at the home when he was shot, failed to show up for a second day of testimony. She had previously been admonished by Superior Court Judge John Trice for cursing and making other unprompted comments on the stand.

Moss was back on the stand Monday and apologized to the court for her absence, which she said was due to cell phone and transportation issues. Trice accepted the apology and allowed her to continue her testimony.

Under cross examination by Yanaga’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, Moss said that at about 11:30 on the evening of March 14, she and Savoy were talking inside a trailer Moss was staying in outside the Yanaga home when they both heard Yanaga and his wife arguing loudly.

Moss said Savoy jumped up without saying anything and walked through the home’s front door. She said she witnessed events through the open trailer door and heard Savoy tell Yanaga, “You don’t treat women like that. I have daughters.”

Moss said she heard what sounded like gunshots and began running toward the side of the house, when she saw Savoy collapse in the driveway.

“It was like right in front of my eyes,” Moss said. “I saw him hit the ground.”

She said she heard Yanaga tell his wife to call 911 and report that an intruder had entered their home. She then hid in the backyard, she said.

When pressed by Funke-Bilu why she did not stop to help Savoy, Moss said she was scared of Yanaga and had heard of a gunfight he had been involved in outside the house just days before she moved in.

“Who wouldn’t be afraid of someone who just pulled the trigger?” Moss responded while holding back tears. “I’m just scared of him — he shot Marshall.”

Sheriff's Deputy Steven Archibald also testified that two bullet holes and blood were found inside the home about six feet from the front door.

Following that testimony, Funke-Bilu argued to Trice that evidence inside the home showed that Yanaga shot Savoy in self-defense after Savoy barged into the home, took off his shirt, and confronted Yanaga.

“That’s clearly an aggressive move of ‘Let’s get it on,’” Funke-Bilu said. “He’s not coming in at 12 o’clock inquiring about Mr. Yanaga’s health.”

He also said Moss is an unreliable witness due to admitted drug use in the days preceding Savoy’s death and that she could not have witnessed the altercation between Savoy and Yanaga due to the angle of the trailer door.

“She’s completely legally un-credible,” he said.

Deputy District Attorney Charles Blair disagreed, arguing that Moss was a key witness to Savoy’s death.

“She obviously went through a traumatic event that night,” Blair said. “Her recollection of that night might not be perfect, but I think it’s believable.”

Following testimony, Trice ruled that there is enough evidence to have a jury determine the self-defense issue and ordered Yanaga held without bail.

Yanaga’s wife has not yet testified in court but is expected to be called during the trial.

His case will continue with another pretrial hearing on May 4 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

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