Ryan Chartrand

A young woman who witnessed her friend’s murder testified about the incident in court last week.

Last December, Joshua Houlgate, 36, was found dead in the Oceanaire Mobile Home Park in San Luis Obispo after suffering a single gunshot wound to his chest. The defendants, Chad Westbrook, 35, and Patrick Wollett, 18, both of San Luis Obispo, are charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon. They appeared in court last week for a preliminary hearing.

The witness, Sarah Lonsinger-Rey, 24, was an intimate friend of Houlgate and was staying at Wollett’s trailer at the time of the incident.

She testified that she and a group of friends, including the defendants, had been using methamphetamine and alcohol in the hours leading up the incident.

According to her testimony, the group returned from a bar to Wollett’s trailer early in the morning. Shortly after, she and Houlgate took methamphetamine, had sex and were lying in the living room before being attacked by the defendants, who were wielding blunt metal objects, she said.

“We were lying down on the mattress covered with a blanket, talking, listening to music, and then we started getting hit with metal bats or poles,” said Lonsinger-Rey, who reports being struck several times and suffering broken bones in her foot and a contusion in her forearm.

She said after the assault stopped, Houlgate tried to escape through a sliding glass door. It was then, according to the witness, that Westbrook pointed a shotgun and shot Houlgate at point-blank range.

“Josh was trying to leave when Chad shot him. Then Chad looked outside, reloaded the gun and looked at me. I said, ‘Don’t shoot me! Don’t shoot me!’ and then Chad left out the back,” the witness recalled.

Lonsinger-Rey said she went outside to follow Houlgate, thinking he had escaped, but found him lying in the driveway.

“He was just laying there, gurgling up blood,” a sobbing Lonsinger-Rey recalled. “I shook him and kept screaming his name, but he was unresponsive.”

Defense attorneys tried to discredit the witness by discussing her drug addiction and the possibility that she had a poor memory of the events.

Westbrook’s attorney, Melvin Mueller, argued, “Methamphetamine is a powerfully dangerous drug. The effects are cumulative and, when used for a long time, it fries the brain.”

In fact, the witness testified to being awake for four days straight prior to the incident.

The defense also questioned why the witness initially told police she did not know what happened but later alleged that she saw Westbrook shoot Houlgate.

“I loved Patrick as a friend. At first I was very conflicted,” the witness asserted. “Later I realized that Josh wasn’t coming back. He was my friend, and Chad killed him.”

Lonsinger-Rey later confirmed that she did not actually see Wollett injure the victim but confirmed that he was “one of the attackers.”

According to her testimony, Lonsinger-Rey was at one point engaged to Wollett’s brother but had broken off the engagement before becoming involved with Houlgate. Prosecutors suggested that Wollett and Westbrook attacked Houlgate because of his relationship with Lonsinger-Rey. One officer testified that a witness told him that Wollett said he “felt like he was being disrespected in his house” and that “someone was going to die tonight.”

Both defendants have plead not guilty to their charges.

Houlgate is a 1995 graduate of Cal Poly and the son of retired Cal Poly philosophy professor and local political activist Laurence Houlgate. Throughout the testimony, Houlgate’s parents could be seen in the audience wiping tears from their eyes.

Wollett’s defense attorney Gregory Jacobson said during his closing argument, “There is no evidence that my client did anything against the victim. According to the prime witness (Lonsinger-Rey), he was there but did nothing.”

Judge Ginger E. Garrett ordered both defendants continue to be held on all charges without bail. The matter was set for further arraignment on Feb. 26.

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