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Bus Driver Testimony Opens Prelim Hearing in Rossmoor Fatality

Gross vehicular manslaughter case faces lawyer Robert Wyatt, accused in car-vs.-pedestrian collision in Rossmoor in December 2010.

With the testimony of a Rossmoor bus driver who found a critically injured pedestrian sprawled in the road in December 2010, a preliminary hearing began Thursday for Robert Wyatt, accused of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI.

The hearing is in Superior Court in Walnut Creek before Judge William M. Kolin.

Investigators say Wyatt, 70, an environmental law attorney with a San Francisco firm, was driving his Bentley on Pine Knoll Road about 6:38 p.m. Dec. 10 when his vehicle struck and killed 85-year-old Edward Phillips. Some Rossmoor residents have said Wyatt left the scene of the accident.

John Heise, a driver for the dial-a-bus program for the Rossmoor retirement community, testified Thursday afternoon. He said he knew the victim by name, Ed, from picking him up frequently and giving him a ride downtown to have dinner at PF Chang's restaurant.

On Dec. 10, Heise received the call to pick up Phillips at his Building 3 on Pine Knoll Road. Phillips generally waited in the archway at the end of the building, Heise said.

Heise was driving a 16-passenger bus in the darkness, with streetlights in the area, when he approached Building 3 around 6:35 p.m. Dec. 10.

"I was driving up Pine Knoll and saw the body, what appeared to be a body, laying out in the street," Heise said in response to a question from Deputy District Attorney Matthew Caron. "I had a funny feeling it was him because it was supposed to be there (where the bus would pick him up)."

Heise said he didn't see anyone else around, other than a passenger who was riding his bus.

The victim's head was parallel to the curb with a wound on the right side, which was against the street; on the street was a pool of blood, Heise testified.

"He said to me, 'My back, my back,'" Heise said. "I put my hand on his back lightly and said, 'Ed, help's on the way, help's on the way' … he was in a lot of pain. He was kind of groaning."

Phillips' hat was in the street and Heise said he moved it to the curb. Responding to a question from defense attorney William Gagen, Heise said he did not see the cane that Phillips, 85, walked with.

In a matter of minutes, paramedics arrived as did Securitas, the company that provides security for Rossmoor, Heise testified.

Heise said he felt Rossmoor was a dangerous place for drivers and pedestrians. "People just don't seem to observe the right of way," he said. "They don't stop at stop signs."

Gagen said there may be a motion to exclude evidence about an accident reconstruction police conducted.

In earlier statements, authorities have said Wyatt's blood-alcohol level was 0.18 that night, well over the threshold for DUI. 

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