Thomas Yanaga pleads not guilty to murder of Marshall Savoy
Update: Thomas Yanaga, 52, of Paso Robles was arraigned in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Department 6 on Monday before Judge John Trice. Yanaga entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of murder in the death of Marshall Savoy, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office. Yanaga also denied the allegation that he personally used a firearm in the killing, the release said.
Yanaga’s jury trial has been set to begin July 6, 2015. A readiness conference was set for June 25, 2015. Pending Mr. Yanaga’s next court appearances he will be transported to Kings County for a preliminary hearing on charges of attempted murder, based on an incident that is not related to the murder charges in San Luis Obispo County.
Original story April 20, 2015:
Judge found there to be enough evidence to move case forward
Thomas Yanaga, 52, of Paso Robles will go to trial for the alleged murder of Marshall Savoy, 32, of Atascadero. The superior court arraignment, where he will plead “guilty” or “not guilty,” will be held on Monday, May 4 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 6 of the San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Yanaga’s preliminary hearing had been expected to continue Monday morning at 8:30, but was delayed when the prosecution’s witness, Ashley Moss, arrived hours late. After testifying late in the day on April 2, she failed to show up for the hearing on April 3. The presiding judge, John Trice, continued the hearing until April 20. When Moss arrived and the hearing began, Trice asked why she was late and why she failed to show up at the last court date. She said she was delayed today because she had to wait and had been stuck behind a truck.
“Honestly, my cellphone, I didn’t hear it ringing … I apologize,” Moss said.
Dark circles around her eyes, Moss answered question after question from Yanaga’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, on her recollection of the events on March 14, when Yanaga is said to have murdered Savoy. While Yanaga says he shot Yanaga in self-defense, the prosecuting attorney, Charles Blair, said Yanaga used “unreasonable force” and that a jury should be who decides what amount of force was appropriated in the situation.
Moss said she and Savoy were in the trailer she rented on Yanaga’s property in Paso Robles. She had only lived there a few days at that point. While they were in the trailer, they heard Yanaga and his wife, Joyce, arguing. At that time, she said, Savoy went to the house. She said she saw Savoy enter the front door of the house, a detail Funke-Bilu said is false because from her vantage point looking out the door of the trailer, one could not see someone going through the front door. She said she heard Savoy yell, “You don’t touch women like that. Don’t touch women like that. I have a daughter.” She said Savoy was in the house with Yanaga, which Funke-Bilu said does not match with what she told a detective that morning in March.
Moss said she was outside the house when Savoy stumbled out the door and fell in front of her. When Funke-Bilu asked Moss if Savoy fell in front of her, she said that he fell in front of her eyes, but not directly in front of her. After further questioning from the defense attorney, Moss said it was likely 20 feet away from her that Savoy fell. At that point she said she heard Yanaga yell to his wife to call 911 to report an intruder. Another detail Funke-Bilu said that different from what Moss told a detective in March.
When asked why she didn’t try to help Savoy when he fell, Moss began crying, visibly shook up.
“There was nothing I could do to help,” Moss said and then paused and stared at her hands. “Um…cause…um…I don’t know what to say. When I got to him, like, the blood and…he wasn’t moving…then I heard Tom coming out and I was scared. I was terrified. … He shot Marshall. .. [Marshall] wasn’t breathing. I just couldn’t believe that Marshall was dead.”
At the close of testimony by Moss and Det. Sgt. Steven Archibald, who affirmed statements and facts presented by the defense, Funke-Bilu asked that the court release Yanaga and not proceed with the complaint. He said he had two reasons for the request: Moss’ unreliability as a witness and the evidence presented did not show that Yanaga did not have reasonable fear of Savoy because the deceased had entered the Yanagas’ resident around midnight and was likely angry. Based on Moss’ testimony, Funke-Bilu said Savoy entered the Yanagas’ home wearing a shirt, but was not wearing one at the time he was shot.
“It’s legally incredible,” Funke-Bilu said of Moss’ testimony, adding that since she lied about small things, such as seeing Savoy enter the house, what’s to say that she’s not lying about bigger things.
The prosecution, on the other hand, disagreed with Funke-Bilu assertion.
“It does not appear that Mr. Savoy was an intruder. He was in invited guest,” Blair said. “I disagree with Mr. Funke-Bilu that she’s a completely unbelievable witness. She went through a traumatic experience. … Her recollection many not be perfect, but believable.”
The judge agreed enough with the prosecution to send the compliant to trial.
“Whether or not the people can prove this [beyond a shadow of a doubt] is a topic for another date,” Trice said. “I believe there’s enough evidence for it to go forward to trial.”
The judge also approved Blair’s request to increase bail to Yanaga being held without bail. Yanaga posted the $1 million bail on April 8 and was arrested in Hanford for alleged attempted murder in a shooting on April 14. He was booked into the Kings County Jail with bail set at $675,000.