Ex-con accused of running down, killing man walking home from work to stand trial

Deputy DA: Defendant has been to prison 3 times

EL CAJON, Calif. - An ex-con accused of running down a 20-year-old man walking home from work in Spring Valley was ordered to stand trial Wednesday on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run causing death.

Jason Michael Palmer, 34, is charged in the Oct. 27 death of Jacob Greenwald.

Surveillance video shows Greenwald walking home from his job at a Spring Valley McDonalds just after 3:30 a.m. He is on the sidewalk and walks out of frame.

The moment of impact comes just a few seconds later. Video shows an SUV speeding onto the screen in the same direction, barreling down the sidewalk right behind Greenwald. He was killed in the collision.

Palmer -- who was convicted 13 years ago of misdemeanor DUI and hit-and-run -- faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

He appeared to struggle to keep his emotions under control during earlier testimony about the fatal hit-and-run.

Kenneth Lewis was asleep in his apartment when he was awakened by a loud crash. He jumped out of bed to see an SUV speed away.

"I walked down and saw Jacob lying there," he said.

Lewis became very emotional as he recalled the scene. 

"I fell to my knees and called 911," he said.

Oscar Flores, a friend of the defendant, testified during a daylong preliminary hearing that Palmer showed up at his Serra Mesa home more than six hours after the 3:45 a.m. collision, drinking a beer.

"He said he had passed out and wanted to wait for me," said Flores.

Flores said Palmer appeared sad and depressed.

Deputy District Attorney Callie Bright asked, "What did he tell you?" 

Flores answered, "He had hit something and he wasn't sure what it was, but whatever it was, it was not good."

He testified that Palmer told him that he had done "something terrible."

"He said, 'I think I may may killed someone," Flores told Bright.

"I told him, 'You messed up,"' and would be in more trouble for leaving the scene, Flores said, adding that he suspected Palmer was intoxicated at the time of the collision.

The witness said he told Palmer to turn himself in, but Palmer said he was scared and didn't know what to do.

Palmer was eventually arrested at a home close to where Flores lived.

California Highway Patrol Officer Frank Soto tracked down Palmer through the SUV's license plate, which was knocked off the Toyota 4Runner at the scene.

The SUV was heavily damaged and Palmer had broken safety glass all over him. 

"A strong odor of alcohol," said Soto.

At Palmer's arraignment last month, Bright said the defendant has been to prison three times -- for attempted robbery, receiving stolen property and possessing a vehicle that didn't belong to him -- and was recently released from custody. Palmer subsequently was released from some sort of halfway house, according to the prosecutor.

Authorities said Greenwald was walking home on a sidewalk on Campo Road when he was struck by a Toyota 4Runner.

The 4Runner -- which was owned by Palmer's grandfather -- was located in Serra Mesa just before the defendant was arrested.

Judge Patricia Cookson ruled that enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing for Palmer to proceed to trial. A Superior Court arraignment was set for Nov. 27.

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