Witness Shifts Testimony on Girl’s Killing


One day after testifying that he could not identify any of four alleged gang members on trial in the 1995 “wrong way” shooting death of toddler Stephanie Kuhen, a key witness told a Los Angeles jury Wednesday that on reflection, he did recognize one of the defendants as an assailant.

Saying that his memory had been jarred by seeing defendant Hugo David Gomez, 17, in court, Timothy Stone ended his testimony as the first witness in the trial by identifying Gomez as among a group that attacked the car Stone had inadvertently steered down a dead-end street in Cypress Park.

The mistaken early-morning turn onto the narrow street northeast of downtown Los Angeles resulted in the shooting death of Stephanie, 3, who was in a car full of family and friends returning home from a birthday party. Wounded in the shooting were her 2-year-old brother, Joseph, and Stone, the 27-year-old boyfriend of Stephanie’s mother.


“Is there someone here in court you believe you recognize from that incident?” Deputy Dist. Atty. Pat Dixon asked Stone during his second day of testimony.

“Yes,” answered Stone, who was driving the 1986 Thunderbird fired upon by a group of alleged gang members in the early morning of Sept. 17, 1995.

With that, Stone identified Gomez, who reacted with an audible sigh.

Stone’s identification, less than 24 hours after he testified that he could not recognize any of the defendants, underscored what could be the trial’s most vexing issue: how to prove that the alleged gang members were responsible for a bloody ambush that lasted only seconds along a dimly lighted street of young partyers at 1:45 a.m.

Indeed, while authorities insist that they will link Gomez and co-defendants Anthony Gabriel Rodriguez, 27, Manual Rosales Jr., 22, and Augustin Lizama, 17, to the shooting, the prosecution’s case will rely heavily on the testimony of two former associates of the defendants who say they saw the shooting. But defense attorneys question the reliability of the witnesses, one of whom has been granted immunity, because both also could have faced prosecution.

Before Stone’s testimony Tuesday, the closest he came to identifying any of the defendants was his recollection that one of the assailants, who helped block the car’s exit by placing a trash can in the middle of the narrow street, had a hand that was either deformed or amputated. Defendant Lizama is missing his left hand, reportedly from a gang shooting in 1990 or 1991, according to testimony during the defendants’ preliminary hearing.

Once he did conclude that he recognized one of the defendants, Stone was firm in his conviction.


Reminded about his inability to select possible assailants from photo lineups after the shooting, Stone acknowledged to Gomez’s defense attorney Lawrence Forbes that he had had some problems making identifications early on.

“Do you have a feeling that you remember things better today than you did then?” Forbes asked Stone.

“No,” Stone said.

“Well, what kind of things do you remember better today than you remembered then?” Forbes continued.

“Seeing [Gomez] over there,” Stone said. “Once I saw him [Tuesday], I know for a fact that I saw him there.”

Despite Stone’s testimony, Gomez’s attorney said he will prove that the witness’ recollection was more a matter of convenience than fact.

“His identification in court today is a poor attempt to reconstruct something in his mind’s eye that is really incorrect,” Forbes said.