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Final witnesses take the stand in July hit-and-run trial

By KTVA Alaska 8:38 PM March 10, 2014

A 2013 hit and run case draws to a close as the final witnesses took the stand this morning.

ANCHORAGE – A 2013 hit-and-run case is drawing to a close as the final witnesses took the stand Monday.

The then-20-year-old Kayla Johnson, who is accused of underage drinking, drinking and driving and hit-and-run, listened as an investigator testified for the prosecution and an accident reconstruction analyst testified for the defense.

But perhaps the most damning testimony was offered by eyewitness Conner Cucullu, who was inside the car at the moment of the alleged hit and run.

“I knew I had information that they needed to know, so I called,” Cucullu said.

The prosecution presented a picture that Cucullu said he snapped just moments before the collision. The photo shows Johnson in the driver seat with Cucullu in the passenger seat posing for a “selfie.” Cucullu said it was taken at a gas station near the same area where 18-year-old Tevin George was struck by Johnson.

“All of a sudden there’s … I can’t remember if she’s looking at the road or if she’s looking at me,” Cucullu said. “I remember falling forward because she had hit something. I asked her what it was and she wasn’t sure. I kept on asking her what we hit and she wasn’t sure, so we kept on driving and we pulled up on the side of the road a little farther up. That’s when she mentioned possibly hitting somebody.”

Cucullu, who was offered immunity in exchange for his testimony, says he and Johnson circled back to where they believe they had hit something or someone, but could not find anything.

Instead, police would later find George, unconscious with massive head trauma lying near Huffman Road and Gregory Road.

Accident reconstruction analyst Jay Smith testified on behalf of the defense that the July 20, 2013 accident was inevitable because of low visibility, partly because of the dark clothing George was wearing.

Smith explained to the jury that white clothing is visible up to 180 feet away, red, 80 feet. But blue or black, like George was wearing that night, is only visible 55 feet away. Smith said that would only give a driver traveling 60 miles per hour less than a second to react.

“With somebody traveling at 45 miles per hour, even you or I would have no chance to respond, and avoid this accident,” Smith said.

The defense attorney asked Smith if it would have made a difference if the driver was impaired by alcohol or not, Smith said it would not have.

“Impair delays your response and makes you make bad decisions, but in this case it would not affect any of the parameters that we talked about,” Smith said. “It does not affect what you can see, what’s illuminated by the headlights and does not affect whether somebody is walking down the street.”

In spite of Johnson’s alleged drinking that night, the defense argued the accident was not her fault. Prosecutors say, because of Johnson’s alleged underage drinking, fault lies on her alone.

This accident left George in a coma for weeks and unable to walk for months, his parents say. Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.

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