A witness at a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Bass Lake for charges against alleged murderer George Taylor-Windsor said the 26-year-old became upset inside a vehicle north of Oakhurst earlier this month, started “punching and stabbing everybody,” and left Jessica Nelson, 23 of Foresthill, dead from numerous stab wounds.
But Craig Collins, Taylor-Windsor’s attorney, said Taylor-Windsor was instead assaulted by that witness, driver Reid Kallenberg, possibly with the intention for Kallenberg and Nelson — Kallenberg’s girlfriend — to kill him.
After hearing from the prosecution’s witnesses and cross examination by Collins, Judge Charles Wieland ruled that Taylor-Windsor would be held on both charges against him; first degree murder and attempted murder, with special allegations for using a deadly weapon. Taylor-Windsor faces 37 years to life in prison.
A violent night
On Nov. 15, Taylor-Windsor was sitting in the back seat of a Ford F250 as it traveled along Highway 41. In the front were Nelson, Kallenberg, and an uinidentified man from Florida said Kallenberg, called to the stand Tuesday by lead prosecutor John Baker.
All four knew each other, some less than 24 hours, as they all recently came to the Mountain Area looking for work in the tree cutting industry, in high demand due to California’s ongoing tree mortality crisis.
Kallenberg, of Auburn, said the group was on their way to Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino from the Pines Resort at Bass Lake around 10:30 p.m. when he asked Taylor-Windsor to dim his phone, as it was distracting Kallenberg from driving.
“He was in contact with his ex, or baby’s mom, or whatever,” Kallenberg said on the stand. “I don’t know if he’s married to her or not, but he called her and we all heard him leave a voicemail … then he asked me, ‘what would you write in your last email to your son.’”
As others attempted to console Taylor-Windsor, Kallenberg said, the situation abruptly turned violent.
Taylor-Windsor mumbled to himself in the back seat, Kallenberg said, then stood up and began repeatedly stabbing at everyone in the vehicle.
“I said stop, stop, what are you doing,” Kallenberg said. “Then I got stabbed … (Nelson) wasn’t saying anything or moving. She was still being stabbed.”
As the chaos unfolded, Kallenberg said he attempted to control his truck, but it crashed into a rocky hillside on Highway 41 near River Falls Road just north of Oakhurst, prompting response by emergency personnel and law enforcement. The man from Florida apparently vanished, Kallenberg said.
Kallenberg was taken to Community Regional Medical Center of Fresno with stab wounds, a punctured lung, crushed ribs, and intestinal damage. When asked by Baker Tuesday, Kallenberg removed his shirt to show multiple stitches and staples from three required surgeries, mostly along the back right side of his body.
After the Madera County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol arrived to the wreck, Taylor-Windsor was later detained and placed under arrest for charges of murder and attempted murder. He remains in Madera County Jail without bail.
Under cross examination by Collins, Kallenberg said he ingested methamphetamine in a chalet at the Pines Resort by himself before the fateful trip. Kallenberg added he’s smoked marijuana, and uses prescription drugs.
Pathologist Mark Super, also called to the stand Tuesday, said Nelson, whose autopsy he performed, had an empty syringe with the “plunger all the way down” in her pocket. Collins said his theory was Nelson injected Taylor-Windsor with that syringe, which likely contained methamphetamine.
Nelson was stabbed 17 times in Taylor-Windsor’s alleged attack, mostly into her back, chest, and neck, which caused her death. Kallenberg was stabbed five times, Super said.
To close out witnesses in the hearing was Paul Ratchford, who lives on Whoyah Teh, shortly downhill from where the truck crashed.
Ratchford testified around 10:45 p.m., he and his wife heard a loud banging on their front door, and found Taylor-Windsor standing on their doorstep. He pleaded to be let in as he said someone was trying to kill him, Ratchford said, but they denied and told Taylor-Windsor they had called 911.
Taylor-Windsor initially refused to leave, Ratchford said, but after Ratchford showed him they had a gun ready at their defense, he left in anger, tearing up a handrail along their driveway. Also, they discovered a knife was left on the doorstep, Ratchford said, which wasn’t there before Taylor-Windsor arrived.
District Attorney David Linn attended Tuesday’s hearing, and said he hoped for a trial date in February, inside the Bass Lake Division of Madera County Superior Court after it returns to a full time schedule.
He added chances were very low his office would pursue a plea deal.
“I do not foresee us in any way plea bargaining that,” Linn said. “Those odds are significantly low ... We are going to prosecute this case to the full extent of the law.”
Taylor-Windsor is scheduled to be arraigned 9 a.m., Dec. 13, in the Bass Lake Division. He has plead not guilty to the charges.
For more Madera County mountain news, see the Sierra Star.