Loftin witness a no-show at hearing

By Aaron West / The Del Norte Triplicate

A Crescent City man accused of stabbing a teenager with an eel hook in May and shooting another man less than a month later is still wrapped up in the Del Norte Superior Court system.

Michael Loftin, 31, who has been in jail since local law enforcement found him hiding under the backseat of a car in the Denny's restaurant parking lot in June, will be kept in local custody for at least a little longer. Deputy District Attorney Todd Zocchi requested a continuance after Christina Letti, the prosecution's material witness, deliberately skipped out on Tuesday's preliminary hearing. The hearing was rescheduled for Aug. 19. Loftin faces multiple life sentences in state prison for two attempted murder counts, among other charges.

"We had (Letti) underneath subpoena and we actually made arrangements to have her fly in (Tuesday) morning," Deputy District Attorney Zocchi said in court on Tuesday. "We'd been in constant contact with her leading up to yesterday afternoon,when she was supposed to get a shuttle service that we had arranged. She didn't take that shuttle and she didn't get on the plane that we paid for."

Zocchi went on to say that Letti called him crying and saying that she didn't miss the transport intentionally - a claim he disputed - and then she cut off communication.

"It's apparent to us at least that it was deliberate and willful that she failed to get on the plane," he said.

In court, Zocchi requested Judge Chris Doehle issue a warrant for Letti to be brought to Crescent City, but when Doehle said she'd need to see proof of the subpoena before she did that, Zocchi said he didn't have it on hand and so no warrant was issued. However, on Wednesday District Attorney Dale Trigg told the Triplicate that the D.A.'s Office had actually decided not to pursue a warrant, but he declined to say why, citing the pending trial.

"We are not seeking to get a warrant for her arrest at this time," Trigg said. "We're hopeful we can get her here on the 19th."

The hearing could have moved forward without Letti's testimony, which both Doehle and Loftin's attorney, Mike Riese, pointed out, noting the presence of law enforcement officers who were sitting in the back of the courtroom.

"I'm wondering why you confirmed for this hearing," Doehle said. "You have law enforcement who have obviously been subpoenaed here today to testify. This matter is set for hearing and was confirmed yesterday."

Zocchi declined to take that route, however, saying the witness is important to the prosecution's case.

On the defense's side, Riese requested the case be dismissed and that the prosecution refile when it was ready, but Zocchi said that would be unreasonable and Doehle ultimately denied the request.

"Forcing the people to dismiss and refile is an extreme remedy that I don't think the court should take, especially when this is no fault of the People," Zocchi said. "We made every effort and spent a considerable amount of money trying to get this witness here."

Reach Aaron West at awest@triplicate.com .

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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