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Alleged freeway runner facing murder charges
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The murder trial in the death of a motorcycle rider who died when a man being chased on foot by Manteca officers near Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue 11 months ago ran in front of southbound Highway 99 traffic is finally being put on the court calendar.

Brett Phares, 29, is scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday in the Stockton Courthouse of the San Joaquin County Superior Court.  His preliminary hearing was held earlier this week where a dozen witnesses gave accounts of the crash of several motorcycles in braking traffic when Phares allegedly ran twice across the freeway followed by the pursuit through three counties and back into San Joaquin County.

Winona Moore, 58, of Ceres was riding on the back of her husband’s Harley Davidson motorcycle when he braked and lost control as traffic tried to avoid the runner.  She was thrown from the motorcycle and died later in a Modesto hospital.

Phares reportedly hijacked the car of a Good Samaritan who stopped on the highway to render aid to the injured woman.  He fled southbound on Highway 99 toward Ripon. Two Manteca police units gave chase when he reached Austin Road.  Ripon units added to the chase when he entered that community in a pursuit that would reach into Merced County where he hijacked a freelance TV news videographer’s car with his wife and infant baby in the car.

Phares was already wanted on a no bail warrant for past DUI charges and a second warrant from Turlock Police Department for petty theft had a bail amount of $50,500.

Bail for the new charges involved in the death of the Ceres woman included seven felonies and two misdemeanors.  He is charged with murder, evading police with wanton disregard for public safety, auto theft, kidnapping to facilitate carjacking, carjacking, attempted carjacking, resisting arrest, driving on a suspended license.

During the pursuit the Manteca man was charged with driving the wrong way on Highway 99 and with throwing a wrench at a pursuing California Highway Patrol vehicle with it slamming into the windshield.

The incident began in the early evening hours of Sept. 3 when Manteca officer Jason Massey spotted Phares near the Carl’s Junior fast food restaurant adjacent to Highway 99 and south of East Yosemite Avenue.  The officer recognized Phares and said he wanted to talk to him about past burglaries in the community along with a Friday night pursuit down Highway 99 where he eluded officers by bailing out of his car and fleeing on foot.

Police said it appeared that Phares had been spooked when he saw officers move into the area of the restaurant and sprinted across the southbound lanes of the freeway and then running across the northbound lanes.  When he faced uniformed officers on the east side of the freeway he reversed his steps. That’s when traffic skidded to a stop on the west side of Highway 99 allegedly forcing the band of Modesto area motorcycles to skid to a stop.

The pursuit came to an end in Modesto when the car the man was driving had mechanical problems and this time he was successfully chased down on foot by officers.

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge George Abdullah ruled there was sufficient evidence to hold Phares for a jury trial.