In an emotional testimony, a witness inside a North County courtroom Wednesday described a one-sided altercation and single punch to the head that prosecutors say killed her fiancé.
George Sloss died last May, six days after a long-time acquaintance allegedly punched him, causing Sloss to fall, hit his head on a table and suffer a fatal brain injury.
“It was like bone crunching with flesh,” said Mendy Cox. “That’s the only way I can describe it.”
The District Attorney's Office initially declined to file charges against L. Byron Culver III following Sloss’ death.
But Mendy Cox refused to accept that decision and filed a civil lawsuit against Culver. She also used social media to promote her version of the alleged crime on social media.
Cox’s effort -- and an NBC 7 Investigates story -- prompted the District Attorney's Office to review the facts last December and charge Culver with involuntary manslaughter, battery causing serious bodily injury and battery.
In her testimony at Culver’s preliminary hearing, Cox said Culver was angry with her fiancé about a debt. Evidence in the case connects that debt to a $62,000 loan Culver made to Sloss for a marijuana cultivation venture.
Culver is a descendent of a wealthy family that farmed much of what is now Irvine, California, and is the namesake of Culver Drive.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Cox said Culver was red-faced and angry when he came to the couple's condo to collect on the debt. “Culver stated, ‘I want to hit you in the f****ing face,’ to my fiancé, George Sloss,” Cox said. “I heard it.”
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She said Sloss responded, “Brother, that’s not going to do either of us any good.”
Cox said Sloss hit his head on a table and was knocked unconscious after Culver hit him.
She testified that Culver kicked Sloss more than once in the groin, then grabbed her by her wrists and slammed her at least twice against a door frame.
But under cross examination by defense attorney Richard Layon, Cox admitted she suffered a stroke 19 years ago that impaired her memory and may have diminished her recall of that violent encounter.
"I do have a concept of time, but I don't have very good concept,” Cox acknowledged. “It flies by. I think my kids are only five years older, and really, ten years have gone by."
Layon pointed out other apparent inconsistencies between Cox’s initial interview with law enforcement and her testimony at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing.
Testimony is expected to finish Thursday, at which time Judge Brad Weinreb will decide if there’s sufficient evidence for Culver to stand trial.
Culver is out of custody on $100,000 bail. More than a dozen supporters attended the hearing to support him.
Sloss’s family members were also present at Wednesday’s hearing.