Testimony given by various officers of the Santa Barbara Police Department over the last two days in Santa Barbara Superior Court has painted Gregory Doan as a man who has struggled with alcohol and drugs for many years. Their interviews with friends, ex-wives, and companions showed a man who, despite participating in several treatment programs, is “always falling off the wagon,” as one officer relayed from Doan’s wife of 20 years. According to their testimony, the 56-year-old apparently was struggling with similar problems once again when he took to the road in his van the morning of August 30, eventually striking and killing 66-year-old Carolyn Samuels, who was running on the shoulder of Las Positas Road with a group training for a cancer fundraiser.
Doan, after a several hour preliminary hearing, will be held to face a jury on four charges: a second degree murder charge, two charges of DUI causing injury with priors, and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated-all felonies. Preliminary hearings are held to determine whether or not a case can proceed to trial. Hearsay is allowed in these hearings, which meant officers’ testimony was based on their interviews with witnesses.
The case will now proceed toward trial, where Doan faces between 15 years to life in prison if guilty. Doan, who has not posted the $1 million bail, had four DUI-related incidents prior to 2008, the first coming in 1992 and the most recent in 1999. He was convicted of injuring another person, although it isn’t known how badly, in a 1992 incident in Lassen County. Given his past, in April 2007 he signed a form acknowledging that if he killed someone while driving under the influence he could find himself behind bars for life.
A stipulation agreed to by both his defense attorney Nathan Poulos and the prosecutor Joyce Dudley for the hearing acknowledged that Doan was driving the van that killed Samuels, that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the van, that he tested positive for opiates, and that a blood test taking nearly three hours after the collision showed Doan had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.21, almost three times more than the legal limit.
A woman driving behind Doan’s van on Las Positas told Officer Josh Morton that she was following at about 45 miles per hour on the 55 MPH limit state highway. At one point the van’s left blinker turned on, “even though there was no place to turn,” Morton relayed to the court, and eventually the van began to drift over the lane onto the shoulder to the right. The driver, Marilyn Clayton, thought the van would either correct itself or that the driver was playing some sort of joke on a group of runners on the side.
But then she apparently saw a runner dive out of the way, and saw another struck by the van. Another officer said that the manager of Aamco Transmissions, where Doan apparently paid to park the camper he lived in, told him that when he had asked Doan to pay for the rental space the day before the collision, he could smell alcohol on Doan’s breath. He allegedly told Doan that he needed to go back to NewHouse, an alcohol recovery home, or “you could kill someone.” A lifelong friend of his, Joel Smith, told an officer that “if he didn’t stop what he was doing he would end up hurting someone.” In the camper, police later found several empty vodka bottles, business cards related to organizations which dealt with drug and alcohol dependency, and a thermos full of syringes.
In his van at the scene after collision, Doan apparently shifted vodka and prescription bottles to the passenger side of the van, according to officers relaying interviews with those there. Others heard him mutter, “I am fucked,” and, in a phone conversation while he waited for authorities, “I just hit somebody and I’m going to jail.”
Poulos argued that Doan’s actions may have constituted manslaughter but not murder, mainly because he apparently had only been drinking in his residence, and had no intent to actually get behind the wheel. Doan also showed a lack of dangerous driving, Poulos said, based on the interview with a driver who had followed his van for some time.
But Dudley said his actions constituted murder. “You don’t have to almost kill one person to prove that killing another person was murder,” she said, after stating that the case became murder “when he started the car and began to drive” because it establishes implied malice. She also pointed to Doan allegedly moving the pills and alcohol bottle from his side of the car to the other. “That was a sophisticated move to make,” she said.
Judge Jean Dandona agreed, saying that it appeared he acted with a conscious disregard for life, and that the murder charge would stand.
Doan will next be in court on February 24.