By James R. Riffel
City News Service
A transient accused of driving his car onto a La Jolla sidewalk, seriously injuring three teens before crashing into a bakery and hurting two adults, immediately claimed his car was stolen and that he wasn't driving, witnesses testified Wednesday.
The testimony came as a preliminary hearing got under way for Ronald Troyer, who is charged with reckless driving with great bodily injury, hit-and-run causing injuries and misdemeanors related to driving on a suspended license.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Bernard Revak will determine if there is enough evidence to order the 66-year-old defendant to stand trial.
Jeffrey Macelli, who suffered a knee injury in the Aug. 15 crash, testified that he saw the defendant outside the damaged car yelling that his vehicle had been stolen.
Robert George, a chiropractor who lives a couple of blocks from the accident scene, said he heard the defendant say, "I wasn't driving the car."
However, George said he had previously seen Troyer driving the brown sedan in the neighborhood.
Macelli said he and his wife, Sharon, were at a window-side table at the Cass Street Cafe & Bakery in the 5500 block of La Jolla Boulevard about 7 p.m. when he heard a scream.
"I could see a car coming around the roundabout," Macelli said. "I saw the car and I remember thinking, 'It's coming toward us.' Then I saw it really was coming toward us. I yelled at my wife to get out of the way."
The force of the collision sent him flying across the restaurant, Macelli said.
He said he originally hurt his knee in a wakeboarding accident in May and had just started walking without his brace a couple of weeks before the accident. He later had surgery for a ruptured patella and faces several more months of recuperation, he said.
His wife suffered several cuts.
A teenage girl was pinned under the vehicle for a time and two boys suffered broken bones.
George said when he responded to the scene, he saw "chaos."
"As I walked across the street, I saw people upset and crying," George said. "There was a car in the building."
He said he cared for the victims and helped detain the defendant, who twice tried to walk away.
Deputy District Attorney David Uyar said Troyer has a criminal history which includes misdemeanor vehicle code violations and having sex with a minor.
According to Department of Motor Vehicles records, Troyer was convicted twice in 2005 for driving under the influence. The defendant also has convictions in 2006, 2007 and 2008 for driving with a suspended license, according to DMV records.
Troyer does not have a valid driver's license, which has been suspended seven times since 2004, according to the records.
The sex offense conviction was in 1995, according to the criminal complaint.
The defendant faces around 12 years in prison if convicted, Uyar said.