The man who prosecutors say tried to toss his wife off the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge after an argument in December was ordered to stand trial Thursday on felony charges of attempted murder, domestic violence and mayhem. After a preliminary hearing that lasted more than six hours spanning two days and in front of a packed courtroom of supporters, the defense for Xavier Jarrell McClinton, 47, failed to convince the court that his paranoia and a bi-polar episode caused the events of Dec. 13 to unfold. Prosecutors say McClinton was driving eastbound on state Highway 92 with his wife around 2:25 p.m. when the couple began to argue inside the white Honda Pilot.
The vehicle began to swerve, ultimately crashing into a guardrail. Prosecutors said that when the car came to rest, McClinton got out of the car, walked to the passenger side and dragged his wife from the car. He then allegedly attempted to throw his wife over the bridge, but she was saved by motorists who had gotten out of their cars to help. McClinton fell about 15 feet from the bridge into the Bay and was arrested after Alameda County fire officials fished him out of the water. McClinton’s wife, who was named only as Jane Doe throughout the preliminary hearing, suffered a gash stretching from the side of her mouth to her cheek that required stitches to close. Doe, who has been married to McClinton for nearly five years, was the first witness called on Wednesday by San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Brian Donnellan. Doe testified that she and her husband set out on that December morning to have breakfast in Berkeley when her husband began to mutter paranoid statements, expressing to his wife a deep concern about the cars around them. “I was concerned about my husband’s state of mind. He was very paranoid and scared,” said Doe.
“He was agitated, scared of the people around us – he thought they were going to hurt us.” The couple stopped to see friends in Tiburon that morning then traveled through San Francisco and onto Highway 92 towards the East Bay by early afternoon, leading up to the incident. Doe told the court that she didn’t remember the block of time between the crash into the guardrail and after being saved by motorists. She said she didn’t recall anything until she was sitting “in what I was told was an unmarked police car.” Doe said when she and McClinton headed over the bridge, his paranoia scared her and she already had an inherent fear of bridges, especially the San Mateo-Hayward one. The car began swerving in and out of lanes. Doe said at one point she grabbed the steering wheel to simply “end the situation,” but during their drive the two had only otherwise exchanged affectionate touches as they drove across the high-rise section of the bridge in the eastbound direction.
Donnellan, who called three investigating officers to the witness stand on Wednesday, painted a much different picture. Using material from the police reports, Foster City police officer Brian Tidwell said that Doe said directly after the accident that she tried to get out but that McClinton was too strong and she couldn’t move. “She was concerned she was gonna die,” Tidwell said. Tidwell said witnesses to the incident told him that they saw McClinton drag the victim across a land of traffic on the bridge. He said another witness reported “seeing a male and female in the car in an active struggle. He said arms were flailing inside the vehicle.” Foster City police Detective William Beck, who was the on-call detective the day of the incident, categorized Doe’s emotional state after the incident as “crying, sad and scared.”
He said witnesses told him “the defendant was actively trying to pull the victim into the water.” Beck said several motorists who had exited their vehicles tried unsuccessfully to save both McClinton and Doe, whose bodies were intertwined in a bear hug with his legs locked around hers before McClinton allegedly tried to fall into the water backward. Beck said, “He basically did crunches (off the side of the bridge) – he’d pull his body upward trying to break the victim free of the people’s grasp.” He said when McClinton fell into the water, his grasp pulled Doe’s bra and shirt off completely, causing red scratches to her torso. Motorists grabbed Doe’s legs and pulled her to safety.
During the incident, witnesses told officials that McClinton was yelling at people to stay back and go away. John Rodney Hicks, 63, called by defense attorney Anthony Brass, was one of the witnesses who helped Doe stay out of the water. Hicks said he, along with about 12 other motorists stood nearly 10 feet away from McClinton and Doe when he witnessed an agitated McClinton helping Doe as she went in and out of consciousness. He said at one point he loaned McClinton his cell phone in hopes of distracting him from the situation. Psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan French testified at the end of hearing on Thursday, describing McClinton as suffering from a bi-polar reaction.
He said that in the days leading up to Dec. 13, McClinton has spent time at the Marin General psychiatric unit and had some strange interactions with friends that caused concern. He said, “This is not easy to diagnose. … This is a late onset of a condition and we have to be more careful because we don’t have early onset.” But he said he believed that the incident was a first-time manic episode. Doe and McClinton live together with Doe’s mom and their three children in Mill Valley and share a Corte Madera fitness center called “Body By X.” San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hill ordered McClinton to remain in custody on a no bail status and ordered him back to court for superior arraignment on March 14 at 8:45 a.m.
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