Trial Begins for Man Charged With Murder in Lakeside Jogger’s DUI Death

By City News Service
City News Service
City News Service
October 18, 2021 Updated: October 18, 2021

EL CAJON—A man was driving drunk when his work truck fatally struck a jogger on a Lakeside roadway three years ago, a prosecutor said Oct. 18, while a defense attorney alleged poor visibility on the narrow two-lane road provided her client little opportunity to avoid the collision.

Opening statements and testimony began Monday morning in the trial of Michael Jason Woodfill, 49, who is charged with murder for the Aug. 27, 2018, crash that killed 41-year-old Susana Gotell, a mother of two.

The victim was struck at around 6:40 p.m. on Woodside Avenue and later died at a hospital.

Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said Woodfill was on probation at the time of the crash for a 2016 DUI conviction, leading to the murder charge filed against him.

The prosecutor alleged the defendant had a .21 percent blood alcohol content three hours after the crash, nearly three times the legal limit in California.

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Woodfill was traveling eastbound on North Woodside Avenue near Riverford Road when his truck drifted to the right and hit a chain-link fence.

Woodfill then overcorrected, steered the truck across the opposite lane and struck the jogger, said CHP Officer Travis Garrow.

Woodfill’s truck continued down a dirt embankment after striking Gotell and overturned onto its side. He was arrested at the scene.

Woodfill’s attorney, Dana Grimes, alleged there were varying accounts regarding where exactly Gotell was positioned in the roadway as she came into Woodfill’s view.

Nonetheless, Grimes said that the chain-link fencing along Woodside Avenue played a role in obstructing Woodfill’s visibility of oncoming traffic.

By the time he saw Gotell, it was too late, she claimed.

“He had mere moments to avoid her and that’s what he tried to do,” Grimes told an El Cajon jury.

Woodfill, who remains out of custody, faces 15 years to life in state prison if convicted.