Witnesses detail fatal La Verne drunken driving crash

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Pictured (L-R): Renee Hardy and Telassie Dague.

POMONA — Tatiana Jaimes could tell that her childhood friend was too drunk to drive.

So when she saw Telassie Dague take her car keys out of her bra in January at a San Dimas bowling alley, Jaimes grabbed them out of her hand and told her not to drive.

Alan Michael McConnell, Dague’s friend, was standing nearby. He was visibly drunk, Jaimes testified today in Pomona Superior Court.

“(McConnell) grabbed my wrist and took the keys,” Jaimes said. “He was like, ‘I’m driving.’”
Jaimes told him he was too drunk to drive, and continued arguing with him until Dague interrupted.

“Lassie was like, ‘Just let him drive,’” Jaimes said.

Not long after McConnell snatched Dague’s keys, he drove her car into a tree along Foothill Boulevard in La Verne.

Dague, 22, and another passenger, 20-year-old Renee Hardy, were killed in the Jan. 23 crash. McConnell, 27, emerged from the car without serious injuries.

Blood tests revealed his blood-alcohol level was 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit, and he was charged with two counts of murder and other criminal charges.

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This morning at McConnell’s preliminary hearing, Jaimes and several other people testified about the crash, and a judge ruled that prosecutors presented enough evidence for McConnell’s case to proceed to trial.

The Covina man could face a prison sentence of 30 years to life if convicted of two counts of second-degree murder — charges he faces because he was convicted of drunken driving prior to the fatal crash.

McConnell was convicted of drunken driving last year in Orange County, and was again arrested for drunken driving in November.

McConnell, who wore blue jail scrubs in court, cried during much of the two-hour preliminary hearing and wiped tears from his face with a tissue.

His mother said in an interview that her son is remorseful and heartbroken.

Valerie Kennedy said McConnell and Dague were lifelong friends and were a couple “to some extent.” McConnell brings her picture to all of his court appearances, his mother said.

McConnell has said he has no memory of the crash, according to Kennedy.

“If he could take it all back, he would,” she said.

Jaimes testified that on the night of Jan. 22, she and a friend met Dague, McConnell and Hardy at the bar inside Chaparral Lanes. All three of them appeared drunk, she said.

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It was Jaimes’ first time meeting McConnell, who was introduced to her as “Brad.”

While the group was at the bar, McConnell suggested several times that the group drive to Fullerton.

Jaimes testified that she kept telling McConnell he was too drunk to drive, but he insisted on driving.

It was after midnight when the group decided they would take separate cars and meet at a bar closer to the bowling alley — the Hi-Brow on Foothill Boulevard in Upland.

As Jaimes and her friend walked to Jaimes’ car in the parking lot, she saw Dague’s car pass by.

“I saw the car speed by,” Jaimes said. “I was like, ‘Oh God,’ because it was going so fast.”

McConnell and his two passengers traveled about three miles before McConnell ran a red light at Foothill and Damien Avenue in La Verne and collided with another car.

According to the driver of the other car, McConnell activated his turn signal as if to indicate he was pulling over. Instead, he drove away at speeds later measured at 70 mph.

The driver, Bryan Sanchez, testified that McConnell’s car hit the curb on the right side of the roadway, then made a hard left turn over the median and collided with a tree.

By the time police and paramedics arrived, one of McConnell’s passengers was dead. The other was moments from dying, according to police testimony.

McConnell was knocked unconscious in the crash, and regained consciousness after police and paramedics arrived. His only other injury was a cut to his elbow, according to testimony from La Verne police officers.

After paramedics removed McConnell from the driver’s seat of the car, he told officers he wasn’t the driver.

He again changed his story at the scene, telling officers he wasn’t in the car, but had been dropped off after the crash by another driver, Cpl. Chris Fenner testified.

McConnell’s attorney, Rita Smith, said after the hearing that she believes life would too long of a sentence for McConnell.

“He understands,” Smith said. “He feels the pain the same that everyone else does. I think that should count for something.”

Smith said she’s not sure whether prosecutors are open to offering McConnell a plea bargain that carries a sentence shorter than life. She declined to say whether there have been any plea negotiations in the case.

McConnell’s prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Miji Vellakkatel, declined to comment to a reporter after the hearing. Dague’s parents also declined to comment.

McConnell is next due in court Aug. 10. He remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail at Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.

14 thoughts on “Witnesses detail fatal La Verne drunken driving crash

  1. Telassie was a friend to everyone she met including “Brad” McConnel. If he cared for her so much, he should have been more protective of her. We all pay the price for our actions, even simply trusting others, which in this case proved fatal. The price for taking two lives due to careless disregard for the law and life should be steep.

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  6. Life long friends? His mom is a liar! They met approx a year and a half before this accident happened. No wonder he lied about being in the vehicle when it crashed. He gets it from his mom!!

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