Family waits as hit-and-run evidence is processed 

Courtesy of the Los Angeles County District Attorney


Family members await justice in their loved one’s death from a hit-and-run crash while investigators await the processing of evidence, according to law enforcement officials. 

The delays demonstrate some of the challenges that investigators can face in bringing a timely resolution to a case for the loved ones of crime victims. 

The L.A. County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office identified Jeff Engels Feb. 11 as the 58-year-old motorcyclist killed in a fatal hit-and-run at 5 p.m. four days earlier on Soledad Canyon Road in the Acton area. 

Within four days of that news, California Highway Patrol officers arrested 59-year-old James Preston Fulton, of Acton, on suspicion of committing the crime.  

Court documents detailing a CHP investigation into Fulton’s arrest state a white 2002 Ford F-450 registered to Fulton was recorded driving northbound on Soledad Canyon Road, just north of the 6800 block, around 6 p.m. Feb. 7, when it pulled over to the right shoulder to make a U-turn. 

The truck made the turn directly in the path of Engels’ green Honda motorcycle, according to the CHP investigation, making it impossible for the rider to avoid the truck and causing him to smash into its left front side. 

The truck sped away, dragging the bike and victim for about 1,300 feet, a path that could be tracked by the fluids that leaked from the motorcycle, according to court documents that detailed the investigation. 

The results of CHP officers’ follow-up investigation indicate they spoke to nearby residents who confirmed that the man who regularly drove the truck and parked it by the residence in the 9900 block of Soledad Canyon was Fulton. 

Officers were able to obtain footage of the fatal collision and Fulton pulling his vehicle to the side of the road where he was told he regularly parks it at the above address on Soledad Canyon Road. 

When officers arrived at the address to look for Fulton’s truck, they found it and observed it had evidence consistent with it having been in the hit-and-run collision being investigated, according to court documents. 

Based on the totality of the evidence, which included: video of the collision; green paint flecks that matched the victim’s motorcycle found on the suspect’s truck the day after the collision; vehicle parts from the motorcycle found near where the truck was parked; and blood smears found on the victim’s truck and in his glovebox, Fulton was arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run causing injury/death in homicide of Jeff Engels. 

A spokesperson for the L.A. County District Attorney’s office wrote in a March 17 email that a case had not yet been presented; on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the office wrote in an email the case that still had yet to be presented was “pending further investigation.” 

A court official confirmed on background Tuesday afternoon that Fulton’s criminal case history in the L.A. County Superior Court system stretches back decades, with convictions that range from petty theft to assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury. 

Officer Josh Greengard of the CHP’s Newhall-area office indicated that the investigators were awaiting the results of blood analyses that are being conducted by the Coroner’s Office. 

Law enforcement officials have previously discussed that these results can take anywhere from six to eight months to process, depending on the case and the active queue when the testing requests are submitted. 

“Once (those results) come back, we will resubmit the case to the Antelope Valley District Attorney’s Office,” Greengard said. 

Four days after Fulton was released from the hit-and-run booking charge, he was arrested again, this time by deputies from the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station. 

He was released from custody the following day in lieu of $100,000 bail, but prosecutors filed two charges on May 2 because of that incident.  

A court clerk at the Antelope Valley Courthouse confirmed Fulton’s hearing for a grand theft charge and an assault with a deadly weapon charge stemming from his Feb. 20 arrest was delayed until Sept. 1 while Fulton is hospitalized receiving medical treatment. 

The D.A.’s office was not immediately available Tuesday to provide comment on the case. 

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