Half Moon Bay murder suspect testifies

A 49-year-old San Jose man charged with murder in connection with a 2005 crash south of Half Moon Bay that killed a University of California, Santa Cruz student took the stand in his own defense today in San Mateo

County Superior Court.

Mark Henderson, a self-described methamphetamine addict, told jurors he was not high on drugs in the late afternoon of Oct. 1, 2005, when he crashed his pickup truck head-on into a motorcycle being driven by

19-year-old Rebecca Seibenmorgen along state Highway 1 near Tunitas Creek Road.

Henderson said he had been homeless after working the previous few months for an interior remodeling company. He claimed he had been sleeping in his truck at a beach in San Francisco the night before, and after getting only a few hours sleep, he decided to buy some drugs and drive down to San Jose “to do a little partyin',” he said.

Driving past Half Moon Bay later that afternoon, “I was tired, I was getting tired…,” Henderson told Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher under cross-examination. “I should have pulled over. I don't really remember very much at all.”

Earlier, Henderson testified under questioning by his attorney John Halley that he didn't remember the crash. The first thing he remembered, he told Halley, was “Wakin' up in my truck, on the wrong side of the road, with a smashed up front end.”

“Somebody was askin' me if I was all right,” Henderson said. “I said, 'What happened?'”

Henderson testified bystanders who had been following behind him on the road and stopped after the crash told him the female motorcyclist was dead, and that he then “kinda freaked out.”

Henderson said he helped cover the body with his sleeping bag and then ran back to his truck to grab some drugs he had bought earlier in the day in San Francisco, worried the police would find them. He testified he ran

up a nearby cliff side and snorted some of the drugs, but before he could dispose of all of them, he saw one of the witnesses following him.

After tossing away the remaining drugs, Henderson said he returned to the roadway and was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers.

Now in custody without bail, Henderson has been charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury, fleeing the scene of an accident, and drug possession. He faces a possible life sentence with the possibility of parole if convicted, according to Gallagher.

Proving the murder charge hinges on whether the jury believes Henderson acted with implied malice, Gallagher said.

According to Gallagher, Henderson has three previous DUI convictions and as part of his sentence, attended several treatment programs and classes designed to educate about the dangers of drugs, and thus should

have known full well the potential consequences.

Gallagher said he believes Henderson was high on drugs at the time of the crash, based on the testimony of other drivers who said he appeared to be weaving along the road and driving under the influence.

Halley argued today before the trial judge Joseph Scott, in a motion to dismiss the murder charge that there was not sufficient evidence to support “implied malice.” Halley said he believes vehicular manslaughter would be the appropriate conviction.

The motion, argued outside the presence of the jury this morning, was denied and testimony resumed. Halley later told the jury that the classes Henderson took after his DUI convictions were “not very well directed” and

did not provide Henderson with any information he didn't already know.

This afternoon, when confronted by Gallagher with a written transcript of a recorded phone call he made to a female friend from jail the day after his arrest, Henderson admitted that he provided explicit details about the crash to her.

Gallagher read from the transcript and Henderson affirmed it was correct.

“The motorcycle hit me head on and the driver died,” Gallagher read. Asked if it had been his fault, Henderson had responded, “No, they came around the corner and they veered into my lane.”

“I wasn't high, nothing,” Henderson told the woman.

“You weren't tired and drifted over?” the woman asked. “Nope. I seen the whole thing,” Henderson responded. He later admitted to her, “I was coming around the curb and I came wide.”

Henderson's cross-examination resumes Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.

— Bay City News

Bay Area NewsLocalPeninsula

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