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Three bound over for trial in robbery of dying woman at Taco Bell

Updated: 2014-02-17T14:59:44Z

By Hurst Laviana

The Wichita Eagle

On the night that a wedding ring was taken from the finger of a woman who had passed out in a Taco Bell drive-through lane, three men came to another woman’s house with the victim’s driver’s license and credit cards, a witness told a Sedgwick County judge Thursday.

Jessica Saenz said she helped one of the men check the balances on the credit cars by calling numbers on the backs. She said the cards and the driver’s license the men showed her that night belonged to Danielle Zimmerman, who died of a brain aneurysm after losing consciousness at the East Harry restaurant on Dec. 29.

Saenz proved to be a reluctant witness at the preliminary hearing for three suspects in the case: Daquantrius S. Johnson, Quanique D. Thomas-Hameen and Keith B. Hickles Jr., all 19.

She balked at one point when District Attorney Marc Bennett asked her about a conversation she had with the three defendants on the night Zimmerman’s ring, cellphone and purse were taken.

“I don’t have anything else to say,” she said at one point.

“Did you talk about going to Taco Bell?” Bennett asked.

“I don’t have anything else to say,” Saenz again replied.

After a half-dozen questions generated the same response, Bennett changed the tone of his questions. He asked Saenz if she had been threatened.

“I was told not to testify,” she said.

“By who?” Bennett asked.

“I’m not sure,” she said.

“What was the threat?” Bennett asked.

“That it’d be in my best interest not to testify today,” she replied.

Saenz went on to say that the threats came in the form of an e-mail from someone she knew only as “Trey,” a person she knew from a former relationship.

“Do you see Trey in the courtroom today?” Bennett asked.

After scanning the 20 faces in the gallery, Saenz said, “I thought he was in here, but he’s not.”

After the discussion about the threats, Saenz said at least one of the defendants mentioned a robbery.

“Did they say where?” Bennett asked.

“Taco Bell,” she said.

“Did he say how they robbed someone?”

“Just that a woman had passed out behind the wheel.”

“The wheel?”

“Yes, of her vehicle,” she said.

At the close of the testimony, lawyers for all three defendants argued that the evidence didn’t support the charge of robbery, which is defined by state law as the “taking of property from the person or presence of another by force or by threat of bodily harm.”

“The state has not produced any evidence of force or fear or threat of bodily harm,” defense lawyer Casey Cotton argued. “One or more of those is required.”

Bennett argued that some force was needed to remove the ring from Zimmerman’s finger.

Although the ring has not been recovered, District Judge Christopher Magana ruled that the three defendants should stand trial on all three charges.

“The location of ring, by all accounts, would have been on her finger and would have required some degree of force to remove,” he said.

He set the case on the April 7 jury trial docket.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @hlaviana.

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