Solano autopsy questions spill into Travis Dairy homicide case

By From page A1 | February 20, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Another pending murder case has been affected by the growing controversy involving the doctor with the Solano County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office who conducted the autopsy on the victim.

Sheriff’s officials have repeatedly said Dr. Susan Hogan retired in December 2013. She has said she was abruptly fired for no reason. Prosecutors earlier this week confirmed a months-long look at Hogan’s work turned up problems with some of her autopsies. A growing number of defense attorneys now want to know if their clients may be wrongly accused because of sloppy or negligent autopsies.

James A. Young, 19, was in court briefly Wednesday morning. He faces murder and robbery charges for his alleged role with four other teens in the June 2011 robbery and assault on the owner of the Travis Dairy, 70-year-old Ho Kim, who suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after being doused with pepper spray and beaten.

Young watched his defense attorney, Jessica Agnich, press prosecutors for information about Hogan and the circumstances that led to her abrupt departure from her job. Also in court were lawyers for Hogan and the county who have been in court several times in recent weeks, providing judges with more than 1,000 pages of documents about Hogan to review behind closed doors.

The judge overseeing Young’s case, Donna Stashyn, reviewed the Hogan documents last week in another pending murder case and passed on a thick sheath of copies of some of those documents to another defense attorney. Stashyn is also presiding over a double-murder case in which the jury trial was recently delayed at the last-minute when Hogan refused to testify about her autopsies.

Stashyn repeatedly told prosecutors at Wednesday’s meeting that even though she had reviewed the Hogan documents and shared many of them with other defense attorneys, the ultimate responsibility of sharing any information that might somehow exonerate the accused, as required by law, was the responsibility of the District Attorney’s Office. Stashyn urged prosecutors to meet with Sheriff’s Office officials to ensure that all the relevant information about Hogan’s work was on the table.

Hogan, during a December 2012 probable cause in the Travis Dairy case, said Kim, who had a history of heart problems, had “literally been scared to death.” Hogan’s expert conclusion about the cause of death was different from what she had previously described at prior court hearings. After her testimony, Stashyn put the hearing on hold and urged prosecutors to consider plea deals in the murder case. Four of the five suspects took plea deals at their next court appearance.

The defendants, James E. Williamson, 16, Osis “O Money” Smith, Dezmon “Young D” Frazier, both 18, and Chelsea Johnson, 19, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and burglary charges for their actions in the June 2011 theft that netted them $60 and several packs of Newport cigarettes.

Agnich and Young are scheduled to be back in court March 7 when Stashyn will review whether all the relevant Hogan documents have been turned over by prosecutors.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

Discussion | 11 comments

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  • DJFebruary 20, 2014 - 12:52 am

    I will ask it again. Why does DR insist on printing these people's "street" names. I would like a editor to respond to The reasoning behind this.

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  • Christine in FFFebruary 20, 2014 - 9:45 am

    It used to bother me also. Not anymore cause all it does is remind their parents of how proud they are of their children and what upstanding citizens they are in society.

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  • JustinFebruary 20, 2014 - 1:46 am

    This is enough. The chief of police needs to start giving every able bodied person concealed weapons permits asap. Now the people who murdered Mr. Ho are gonna get off of their 2 year sentence cause of technicality ? Im not gonna go out like this.

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  • justinFebruary 20, 2014 - 2:08 am

    also good work Jess for keeping us informed about this . I hope 60 minutes picks up on this .

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  • Skeptic ScroogeFebruary 20, 2014 - 3:47 am

    I hope if they get off that she has to do their jail time!

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  • SC is PatheticFebruary 20, 2014 - 6:37 am

    What will we read tomorrow? ALL the defendants ever involved in cases with this bogus pathologist are going to have their cases dropped, and released from prison? Someone also needs to review Donna Revolving Door Set em Free with Probation so they can re offend Stashyn' cases.What kind of judge halts a hearing and urges prosecutors to offer plea deals? A man was MURDERED! He died in the commission of a crime! I don't care if he stubbed his toe, resulting in a fall and subsequent death-had those heathens not robbed him, he wouldn't have stubbed his toe! How is this pathologist able to refuse to come to court and testify??? I don't care about the word games. If they say she retired and she says she was fired, maybe she had enough time to retire when she was let go. At the end of the day, FINISH WHAT YOU START, and that goes for her and her autopsies/testifying, and this worthless county needs to ENSURE that she shows up to court,or faces punishment, AND fix the problem. By fix I don't mean throw their hands up in the air, blame the Pathologist,the defense, the prosecution, the victim, etc. JUST FIX THE PROBLEM! I wanna say I can't believe this is happening, but I can. I know of someone who was always in Donna' court. He said she was COOL! I guess she is, since he's been selling/robbing/killing for over a decade, has NEVER gone to prison, is ALWAYS having his probation reinstated, and for the first time is sitting in CB, when in actuality, he should have been in PRISON years ago. Yes, I blame Donna. I blame this state. I must find somewhere to move. This is unacceptable, frustrating, nauseating, and so much more.We have the young girl taken from E Tabor and murdered in the park,Officer Capoot,and how many other victims whose cases may be bungled, due to this pathologist, and weak weak Plea Broker Donna.

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  • CD BrooksFebruary 20, 2014 - 7:39 am

    What an ugly mess this has become. We have enough difficulty in this town locking people up them keeping them there. If the majority of these people walk it is a huge injustice. Not only an injustice but it puts every citizen's life in jeopardy. From a law and order perspective, we are in big trouble here in Fairfield. Somebody needs to step up and clean up this ridiculous travesty of our legal system.

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  • boomFebruary 20, 2014 - 10:07 am

    Are all of you guys new to Solano county? The coroner's office had been a constant black eye for this county since at least the late 80's and early 90's when you would get your relatives back from them filled with maggots. Don't believe me? Ask DR , they printed the story right here on these pages, 20 years ago. BTW, the Sheriff is responsible for coroner's office, if you have any doubt as to who's door you should lay your grievances at.

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  • Typical County WorkerFebruary 20, 2014 - 1:37 pm

    I was waiting for someone to mention this. Maybe they should consider separating the Sheriff and Coroner.

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  • Rich GiddensFebruary 20, 2014 - 11:24 am

    The issue of the enigmatic Dr. Hogan and her communications, case work product findings along with the causes and circumstances of her sudden career's conclusion need to see the light of day. That means Dr. Hogan needs to be brought forward to testify instead of being hidden as is the case right now. Where is this Dr. Hogan? Nobody can find her!---she's being hidden and take a guess by whom! People need to go watch these proceedings and hearings---its truly amazing what is revealed at them and perhaps you're not being told the whole story or its being hidden by the Sheriff and the DA thug slugs. I note with interest that in attendance at those hearings are interesting characters like Dan Wolk and insurance underwriters.

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  • JusticeFebruary 20, 2014 - 1:58 pm

    This all lies with the Sheriff. I understand making a hiring mistake, but two pathologists in a row? At what costs to tax payers. Ferrera needs to go and if the DA Don duBain endorces him then he needs to go too.

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