During the third week of the trial against John Dungan — a Santa Barbara man accused of killing a 34-year-old Solvang woman and her two children in a head-on collision on Highway 154 — prosecutors called upon investigators, who brought forward information regarding the severity of the crash, and the defendant’s mother.
Michael Carlson approached the stand on Thursday, June 30, detailing his investigation and conclusions from the accident that occurred on October 25, 2019. At the time, Carlson was working as a detective with the Coroner’s Bureau, where his main role was to determine the cause and manner of deaths.
Following the investigation, Carlson said that the driver, Rebecca Vanessa Goss Bley; and her children, Lucienne and Desmond Bley Gleason, died immediately upon impact from multiple blunt force traumatic injuries. Homicide was ruled as the manner of death, with agreement from forensic pathologist Dr. Manny Montez.
Carlson told the jury about being called to the scene of the crash to find and recover the corpses, revealing graphic and vivid details about what was left of the bodies.
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Photographs of Bley’s charred body were displayed on the screen as Carlson described her injuries, including third-degree burns on her right shoulder, open fractures on her arm and leg, skull and neck fractures, and a dislocated pelvis. Carlson said that he had difficulty finding the children in the debris, stating that they were “burned beyond recognition” and that one of them was a torso, and the other an abdomen.
Carlson said he had carbon monoxide tests conducted to see if the children were breathing during the fire, with results showing that they had no trace of the gas in their bodies. The former coroner’s detective said he had to use the childrens’ spleens in order to conduct the tests.
The next day, the defendant’s mother, Geraldine Dungan, was called on Friday to testify about her son. Geraldine provided quick and curt responses about her experience leading up to the event, often saying that she couldn’t recall the details.
When asked if she and her son communicated regularly, she denied that they did. However, evidence would later show that John “almost exclusively” talked to his parents, with 1,400 messages between him and his mother and father over the course of June to October 2019.
During cross examination, she testified to having impaired memory and being evaluated twice by psychologists and neurologists. She also said that her son would “always say things that were up for interpretation” and that he was “always thinking 10 moves ahead, calculating outcomes normal people aren’t paying attention to.”
When questioned by the prosecution about whether her son is manipulative, she agreed. When asked about whether he is “mean,” she said she didn’t know.
The next witness called was Special Agent of the California Department of Corrections Jeffrey Clements. A California Highway Patrol detective at the time, Clements was assigned as the lead investigator of the case.
Clements described the process of obtaining texts from the defendant’s phone, which were also displayed in Judge Thomas Adams’s courtroom.
On the day of the crash, Dungan texted his parents at 11:03 a.m., “I hope one day after I’m gone you’ll realize what you did wrong and understand that I loved you.” After attending therapy and visiting his mother later that day, he would text his parents shortly before the incident, at 4:33 p.m., saying, “Even though you may have disappointed me sometimes, I still love you both.”
Clements said that Dungan’s court-mandated GPS anklet from a previous charge last registered at 4:44 p.m. on East Camino Cielo and Highway 154, with an alert of the strap being tampered with.
The trial will continue on Thursday,