Taylor Windsor, 26, who recently moved to the area from Wyoming, is charged in the Nov. 15, 2016, death of Jessica Nelson, 23, of Foresthill, Calif.
He is also charged with stabbing Reid Kallenberg, the driver of the pickup in which they were all riding, sending him to the hospital with multiple stab wounds.
The trial was delayed after the panel of available jurors was exhausted last Tuesday, but twelve jurors and two alternates were seated by shortly after 2 p.m. today, and the proceedings got underway.
After Judge Charles Wieland instructed the jury, Senior Deputy District Attorney John Baker made his opening statement.
“This defendant is charged with premeditated, willful and deliberate murder and attempted murder,” said Baker, who went on to describe the 11 stab wounds and several more superficial wounds on Nelson’s body. The injuries, he said, were inflicted with a 6-inch knife, and one stab to the back went all the way to the hilt.
He told the jury there would be testimony that Taylor-Windsor — who was seated in the back of an extended cab pickup at the time of the incident — was upset by unsuccessful attempts to get his ex-wife to return his calls, and Kallenberg’s requests to turn off the bright light of his cell phone because it was interfering with his ability to see and drive.
“He flipped a switch of rage and began stabbing the other three occupants,” said Baker.
The group was southbound into Oakhurst on Highway 41 just south of Road 222 at about 10:30 p.m. when the attack began, said Baker. Nelson was seatbelted into the middle of the front seat, and Kallenberg was caught in his seatbelt as he tried to stop the attack.
As he tried to defend himself, Kallenberg crashed the truck into a rock wall, and Mike Ross, who was in the front passenger seat, jumped out of the moving truck, suffering only minor scrapes, said Baker. Ross left the scene and returned to the Pines Village, from which the group had departed minutes earlier on their way to the casino in Coarsegold. He was later located by sheriff’s deputies.
Taylor-Windsor is being defended by Craig Collins and Katie Reed of Ciummo and Associates. In her opening statement, Reed told the jury that this is a clear case of self defense.
Kallenberg and Nelson had been dating for a few months, she said, but Taylor-Windsor and Ross had just met the pair — and each other — the day before. The defendant was looking for a job with a tree company, and they all spent the day at a chalet at the Pines Resort, drinking, smoking pot and doing other drugs. Nelson was an intravenous drug user, said Reed, and there were nine syringes in the truck when they headed to town, including one in her pocket.
Reed told the jury that Taylor-Windsor overheard the two talking during the drive, saying “Stop procrastinating, do it here.” Nelson then pointed a gun at her client and stabbed him with a needle, she said.
“George realizes he is being attacked, grabs a knife and starts stabbing, but he can’t get out of the back of the truck,” said Reed. “After getting away from his attackers, he tries to find help and runs to the Ratchford house saying ‘please someone help me, they’re trying to kill me,’ but they won’t let him in.”
Reed said Taylor-Windsor eventually flagged down a deputy and told her that he had been attacked.
Taylor-Windsor was taken into custody several hours after the incident and booked into the Madera County Jail where he remains on a $3.1 million bond.
The trial will continue on Tuesday with the first witnesses called to testify, and is expected to last 2-3 weeks.
Taylor-Windsor faces 30 years to life if convicted.