From left, defendant John Dungan with his attorneys, Ricky Worsfold and Jeremy Lessem, on Friday, July 15. | Credit: Rodrigo Hernandez

In the trial of John Dungan, a Santa Barbara man charged with murdering a Solvang woman and her two children on Highway 154 in October 2019, the defense rested its case without calling Dungan to the stand. 

Before resting, the defense called two witnesses, the first being Dr. Adham Malaty, a private psychiatrist who has been affiliated with Cottage Hospital since 2017. Malaty testified to examining Dungan at the hospital on November 3, 2019, a little more than a week after the collision on October 25 but said he couldn’t specifically remember the encounter.

After reviewing his reports, Malaty said he was unable to determine if Dungan or his actions were suicidal but that there were “a lot of red flags.” One of those red flags was the note the defendant left in his mother’s car, which the doctor referred to as a “suicide letter,” and another being a call from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office advising the hospital about Dungan’s history of having crisis intervention called on him multiple times. 

The next witness was Jeffrey Bonsall, a senior forensic engineer at Momentum Engineering, a private consulting firm specializing in accident reconstruction and forensic engineering. Bonsall provided the court with his opinion on what the events looked like that day, including stills from a simulated video depicting the crash from an overhead point of view. 

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There were many conflicting opinions between the prosecution’s collision reconstructionist, retired CHP Officer Scott Peterson, who holds 26 years of experience in collision reconstruction and crash science, and the defense’s witness Bonsall, mostly regarding the crash sequence between the Volt, driven by the victim Rebecca Vanessa Goss Bley, and the Yukon, driven by Nicholas Goddard, a Los Gatos man who was traveling with his son.

Bonsall’s investigation and simulation suggested that as a reaction to Dungan’s Camaro being in the opposing lane, the Yukon owned by Goddard collided with the rear of Bley’s Chevy Volt before falling into an embankment to the right. Pointing to photographs from the scene, Bonsall also said that the Camaro’s right front tire was pointed and locked to the right while the car landed on the left side of the bridge, suggesting an evasive maneuver.  

During the prosecution’s rebuttal, Peterson refuted the testimony made by Bonsall, explaining to the jurors how it was “impossible” for Goddard’s Yukon to hit the Volt and end up on the embankment to the right over 150 feet away and not be involved with the collision. 

“If I can’t prove something in my analysis, it has to be discarded,” Peterson said, emphasizing his use of mathematics and sketches in solving collisions instead of relying on digital programs. 

Closing statements will begin Thursday, July 28, with the jury expected to be in deliberation later that day or Friday. 

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