Pacific Beach man ordered to trial for murder in architect's death
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 01/10/22 - 02:00 PM | 1462 views | 8 8 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Laura Shinn 
Courtesy of AIA San Diego; photographer Joniene Swick
Laura Shinn Courtesy of AIA San Diego; photographer Joniene Swick
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After two days of testimony, a judge ruled on Jan. 6 a Pacific Beach driver should stand trial for second-degree murder in the death of architect Laura Shinn who was fatally injured while riding her bicycle to work.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Birkmeyer also heard a half day of arguments before ordering Adam David Milavetz, 38, to also stand trial for vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of drugs with gross negligence in the July 20 incident.

“There is probable cause,” ruled Birkmeyer, adding that “conscious disregard” for life was shown, which is an element of second-degree murder.

Shinn, 57, was on Pershing Drive on her way to work at 7:30 a.m. as the director of facilities planning at San Diego State University when she was struck from behind by Milavetz’s 2011 Toyota Prius while she was in a bicycle lane.

Her husband, Steve Shinn, attended the preliminary hearing all three days. They were planning their 35th anniversary when she was killed.

Former detective Stephanie Ott testified she spoke to a witness who said he saw Milavetz leave his car and run across the road with two brown paper bags, throwing them over a fence before checking on the victim.

District Attorney investigator Michael Edwards told Birkmeyer a lab employee told him methamphetamine was found in one of the paper bags.

Edwards testified he interviewed a forensic toxicologist who tested blood and urine samples of Milavetz. The presence of methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, amphetamine, fentanyl, and other drug was discovered in his system, he said.

Detective Michael Gottfried testified investigators found 29 hypodermic needles in Milavetz’s vehicle along with baggies of methamphetamine. They found these items after obtaining a search warrant issued by a judge.

“He couldn’t stay awake,” said Gottfried of Milavetz’s interview with police after the incident.

Milavetz had worked the graveyard shift all night at a motel and had just gotten off work before the incident, his lawyers said.

Milavetz repeatedly told officers he had never been arrested before for being impaired while driving, but he had been arrested three weeks earlier on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of a drug. Birkmeyer also ordered to stand trial on two misdemeanor drug charges.

Officer Carlos Diaz testified that Milavetz did ask about the victim being injured and began crying. Diaz told his attorneys Milavetz appeared remorseful and upset.

Diaz placed Milavetz in a locked patrol car for 58 minutes at the scene, and his attorney, Donald Bartell, argued that was a prolonged unlawful detention. He unsuccessfully asked the judge to suppress all evidence including a blood draw.

Milavetz’s attorneys argued the drug level in his blood was not high enough to constitute impairment to prove a murder charge.

Bartell told Birkmeyer that the sun got into Milavetz’s eyes momentarily, causing him to strike the back of Shinn’s bicycle.

“He chose to drive his car. This was gross negligence,” said Deputy District Attorney Kelsey Hollander, who added that he demonstrated “conscious disregard for life.”

Hollander noted Milavetz’s first action after stopping was to “get rid of incriminating evidence,” by tossing the two bags. “His priority at that time was to save himself,” she added.

His attorneys asked Birkmeyer to hold a bail review hearing on Jan. 20. He has been held without bail since his arrest that day.

Birkmeyer also set another hearing for Jan. 27 when a trial date will be set. He has pleaded not guilty. A jury will have to decide if Milavetz is guilty of murder, manslaughter, or not guilty.
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