The case of a man accused of having ‘unlawful sexual intercourse’ with a 16 year old girl, who was subsequently found dead, is heading to trial after a two day preliminary hearing concluded.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Linda Colfax found that prosecutors “presented satisfactory evidence to support the belief” that Javonn Allen, 30, violated California Penal Code § 261.5.
At the hearing’s conclusion the judge denied a defense “17b motion,” requesting the court treat the matter as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Colfax also said she was “disinclined” to grant Allen pre-trial release.
Victorria Moran Hidalgo’s partially-clothed body was found in the early hours of Friday February 18, 2022 at 625 Minna Street in the SOMA neighborhood.
The teenager had been reported missing on multiple occasions and had run away from a group home in Concord.
The court heard testimony from the county assistant medical examiner, a criminalist from SFPD’s crime lab, SFPD homicide and special victims unit detectives, and Allen’s probation officer. Their often harrowing evidence laid bare the reduced circumstances endured by Ms Moran Hidalgo in the time leading up to her death. It also detailed law enforcement’s view that Allen was “dangerous” and “a possible sexual predator on the street”.
Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Jimenez endeavored to demonstrate that Allen knew the victim, her age and that he was specifically forbidden to have contact with her. She further sought to prove that forensic evidence yielded from a post mortem examination proved Allen had had intimate contact with the victim.
Rayne Villarreal, special agent for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, supervised Allen in her previous position as a parole agent. She testified that, as of December 2021, “he had a special condition of parole not to have contact with minors.”
Specifically “he was to have no contact with female minors between the age of 10 to 18.”
“He was aware of this witness [Ms Moran Hidalgo] and her age,” she added.
Later, following a further arrest, Villarreal herself directed Allen not to have contact particularly with Ms Moran Hidalgo “who he had been involved with.”
At that point Allen was told that, if he were to continue to have contact with minors, his parole could be revoked (“again”) and he could become a registered sex offender.
20 year SFPD veteran Sgt Kevin Wong, of the department’s special victims unit, testified about the discovery of Ms Moran Hidalgo’s body. He spoke with ‘quick response vehicle’ paramedic Michael Harper about what he found on arrival at Minna Street at 6:38am.
“He observed a juvenile female who appeared to be deceased,” said Sgt Wong, “but they are technically alive until they call time of death.”
“He observed the female patient-slash-victim had her pants down by her knees [and] he mentioned that there was a female standing over the patient pulling up the patient’s pants.”
“He could see multiple people in that area. An unidentified black male, 6’1”, very thin, standing over the woman…[the man had] dreads. He walked away as medics approached.”
“This was a classic fentanyl overdose,” Harper told Wong.
During his investigation he spoke with a parole agent, Jelani Hunter. “He said [Allen] was a dangerous person,” Wong said of Hunter. “We did feel he was a possible sex predator on the street and that a 290 [sex offender] registration would be a good thing to have.”
He testified that it was him who obtained a DNA sample from Allen during a jail visit.
Assistant medical examiner Dr Karen Zeigler, who conducted the autopsy on Ms Moran Hidalgo – initially known only as Jane Doe #38 – told the court that toxicology tests found evidence of fentanyl, heroin, fluvromazolam, fluvromazepam, alcohol and cocaine.
It was determined that the toxic effects of these drugs caused her death.
Post-mortem x-ray and computer topography also led to the recovery of bullet fragments from the victim’s left calf, she said.
Zeigler reported that an investigator from the chief medical examiner’s office who attended the scene said “a witness had said they saw a person on the sidewalk possibly being sexually assaulted.”
“I did not see signs of a traumatic sexual assault,” Zeigler said. “But I couldn’t say whether sexual activity had occurred.”
During the examination she also “found a thin purple synthetic material in the vaginal canal”.
“It could be a piece of a condom,” she noted.
The court heard from the SFPD Crime Lab Criminalist Maria Cownan. She conducted DNA testing on samples including two intimate swabs and the synthetic material found inside the deceased. She compared these to the DNA sample of the defendant obtained by police.
With respect to the one side of the synthetic material, analysis revealed the presence of three individuals’ DNA. The resulting data, Cownan reported, was consistent with two possible explanations: either the presence of the DNA of Ms Moran Hidalgo, Allen and one other unrelated individual or the presence of the DNA of Ms Moran Hidalgo and two other unrelated individuals, neither of which was Allen.
Cownan told the court that it was 13.4 septillion times more likely that the first explanation, with Allen’s DNA present, was correct.
With respect to the other side of the synthetic material, there was a mixture of the DNA of three individuals, a minimum of one of which was a male.
Cownan reported that it was 821 billion times more likely that this demonstrated the presence of the victim’s DNA, Allen’s DNA and the DNA of one other unrelated person versus an alternative explanation of the victim’s DNA and the DNA of two unrelated individuals neither of which was Allen.
SFPD homicide detective Inspector Mark Lee was responsible for investigating the suspicious death of Ms Moran Hidalgo. Initially making contact with Allen by phone, “he said he hadn’t been in contact with [Ms Moran Hidalgo] since his release from jail.”
“He was aware the she had passed,” he added.
Lee then went to speak with him again during a scheduled meeting Allen had with his parole officer. After first declining to speak, Lee said that he subsequently agreed to talk with him.
“He said [Ms Moran Hidalgo] left him the night prior to her death…to go meet a female friend of hers,” said Lee of Allen.
During their cross examination of these prosecution witnesses, defense attorneys sought to show that Allen did not know he was not meant to have contact with Ms Moran Hidalgo specifically, leading witness Rayne Villareal to concede that this was advised verbally and not provided in writing.
They also sought to demonstrate that there was no evidence per se of sperm inside the vagina of the victim. They pointed out that the synthetic material on which Allen’s DNA was found was a “moveable object inside the vaginal canal” and not evidence of intercourse.
The evidence demonstrated that there were multiple individuals near the victim when first responders arrived who, said the defense, were likely to have contaminated the scene. None of the descriptions of these individuals, it was said, matched that of Allen.
They also raised the possibility of cross-contamination at the SFPD crime lab.
The defense asked Sgt Wong whether the location of the victim’s death was an area known to be frequented by drug users and was known for a high number of drugs overdoses. They asked whether he was aware of individuals being used (as “forced labor”) to hold drugs.
Wong generally claimed a lack of professional knowledge about the drugs scene near Minna and 7th. However the line of questioning seemed intended to imply that the victim may have been being used as a mule for the inconspicuous carrying of illegal narcotics.
Public defender Elizabeth Comacho complained that her client had been interviewed outside the presence of his lawyer after he had specifically asked to consult with one.
The defense also accused police and parole agencies of pursuing a racially-motivated vendetta against their client. “ ‘Dangerousness’ is racially-coded language that has been used to detain African American men, “ Elizabeth Camacho said. At a previous hearing she had announced her intention to file a motion under the Racial Justice Act to this effect.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Colfax determined that prosecutors had “presented satisfactory evidence to support the belief” that Allen violated California Penal Code § 261.5.
“He is ordered held to answer.”
Colfax, noting the age of both Mr Allen and the victim and the criminal history of Mr Allen, denied a defense “17b motion” to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Allen first came to the attention of police in 2015 when arrested for attempting to kidnap schoolgirls at Antioch’s Deer Valley High School – manhandling one student and attempting to force her in to his car.
In the years since he has been arrested for crimes including forcible rape, discharging a firearm and child endangerment. In February 2023 he was arrested for spousal battery and parole violations.
“Based upon that which I’ve heard, I’m disinclined to release Mr Allen,” the judge said with respect to bail.
In the absence of a plea agreement the case is expected to proceed to trial. Allen will appear in court next on June 22. He remains in custody.