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Convicted murderer denied petition

A judge has ruled that Kevin Galik, convicted of the 1996 slaying of 11-year-old Traci Rene Conrad, will not get a new trial.

After claims were made that newly discovered DNA evidence exonerated Galik of the murder, Judge H.N. Papadakis denied Galik’s petition to present his case before the court again, according to Kings County Superior Court documents.

The Northern California Innocence Project, along with its attorney, Kelley Fleming, filed a writ of habeas corpus on Galik’s behalf in 2014. In it, the organization alleges that re-tested DNA evidence excludes Galik, now 58, as a possible male contributor in the death of the Hanford girl.

Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes said “habeas corpus” translates to saying “you have the body.” He said people file this type of writ when they believe they are wrongfully in jail and are asking to come before a judge again to present new evidence.

The new evidence in this case includes vaginal swabs and swabs of duct tape used to bind Traci. The evidence was tested in 2013 by Bode Technology as part of a 2012 agreement between the Innocence Project and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.

The Innocence Project states that Galik’s DNA was excluded in vaginal swab testing and was also excluded as a major contributor to the DNA found on the duct tape. Galik’s DNA could not however be conclusively excluded as a minor contributor to the duct tape DNA, the petition states.

According to court documents, new evidence must be “credible” and “of such decisive force and value that it would have more likely than not changed the outcome at trial.”

Fagundes said Galik has filed several appeals in the past, but they have all been denied. He said when the Innocence Project came in four years ago and asked the previous district attorney’s administration to do further DNA testing, the request should have been denied.

As part of the return argument during the hearing in November 2017, the DA’s office, which was represented by Deputy District Attorney Louis Torch, stated that the evidence tested had been contaminated by a Fresno Department of Justice laboratory staff member during processing. The office also argued that the DNA evidence failed to completely exonerate Galik.

Fagundes said the new DNA evidence was characterized with the “terrifying trilogy”: low level DNA, multiple contributors, and a physiological source that is both unknown and unknowable.

Papadakis listened to the presentation of new evidence and denied Galik’s request for habeas corpus on Jan. 22.

Part of the court document states: “Such weaknesses in the DNA results obtained in this case undermine both the credibility and significance of such evidence to an extent which, in the opinion of this court, renders the same unlikely to have changed the outcome of the Criminal Case.”

Fagundes said Torch did a “phenomenal job” on a case with complicated subject matter and believes it was Torch’s tenacity and research that helped get the request denied.

“We’re happy the judge saw the evidence as we did,” Fagundes said, adding the Conrad family shouldn’t have had to relive the case.

“It’s a travesty the Innocence Project made the family go through this again,” Fagundes said.

Fleming, who represented Galik along with Linda Starr, said the Innocence Project will appeal the ruling.

"Kevin Galik is not the source of newly discovered male DNA evidence collected from intimate swabs taken from the victim's body,” said a statement from Fleming on Monday. “We believe that the court erred in its application of a recently enacted law regarding the presentation of newly discovered evidence and intend to take the case to the Fifth District Court of Appeal."

Traci was reported missing in February 1996. She had left home to walk the few blocks to the Galik home where she planned to visit Galik's son, who was a friend of hers.

Her body was found nearly a month later after Galik family members reported smelling a strong odor coming from the backyard pottery kiln. Traci was discovered in the kiln bound at the hands and feet with duct tape and gagged. It was determined that she died from suffocation.

Evidence later linked Galik, who was 36-years-old at the time, to the killing and he was arrested on March 27, 1996.

In 1997, a jury convicted Galik of murder and found that the crime occurred in the commission or attempted commission of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He is incarcerated in the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione.

Hanford Cow Run on Sunday

HANFORD — Slowpokes will have to moo-ve over during the annual Hanford Cow Run this weekend.

Entering its third year, the half marathon and 5K run is proving that the idea of a regular half marathon in Hanford has legs.

“We want to make Hanford the ‘it’ spot for running,” said Run for All co-founder Eunice Rosas. “People come from all over to visit Hanford and participate in the race. They stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants and that’s what we’ve wanted. We want Hanford to stand out in the running community.”

Runners come from all over the state, including Los Angeles, Salinas, Stockton, Sacramento and points in between, Rosas said.

The race begins and ends in the parking lot of Frontier Elementary School, near Mustang Drive in Hanford. Racers will head to Excelsior Avenue before turning back.

The route passes by landmarks like Kings Dairy Supply and Bertao Livestock.

The Cow Run was named as a tongue-in-cheek way to lean into Hanford’s reputation with dairy, livestock — and the smells come that can come with them.

The half marathon run is a standard 13.1 miles, while the 5K is 3.1, a perfect length for those who don't want to get their calves too tired.

The race is a family event, Rosas said. Around 50 children under 18 are registered to participate in either the half marathon or the 5K run.

Funds from registration fees, which are $85 for the half marathon and $55 for the 5K after today, will benefit Valley Children’s Hospital and mascot George the Giraffe will be at the race, cheering runners on.

“The kids get excited to see him,” Rosas said.

The race has seen great support from Kings County officials and sponsor Adventist Health, Rosas said.

“About 100 of our employees will run this year,” said Adventist Health Talent Acquisitionist Meghan Henshaw.

Through the Adventist wellness program, employees are sponsored to run in the race of their choice on the company dime. Running the race also earns employees “healthy living points” that they can accumulate to receive health insurance discounts.

Through corporate wellness policies, employees from Costco and Leprino Foods will also participate, Rosas said.

“That’s what we want. We want more people to support their employees and give them an incentive to stay active, making them happier employees,” she said.

Rosas and her husband, Cesar Rodriguez, took note that there isn’t much in this part of the Valley for marathon runners outside of the Rockin’ Rudolph Run in December and Visalia’s End of the Trail Half Marathon and 10K in February.

But until the Cow Run began in 2016, Hanford’s marathon scene had no legs to stand on.

The couple, who have owned AAA Mufflers & Tires on East Seventh Street for about 20 years, decided to start the nonprofit organization, Run For All, to bring a running culture to Hanford and promote active, healthy lifestyles.

The first year, the hopes were to get participation in the triple digits.

“We felt that if we could make our goal of at least 100 runners, we could make [the race] work,” Rosas said. “And we completed it with 389 registrations.”

Last year’s goal was to try to repeat those kinds of numbers, erring on the conservative side. The organizers were hoping for 300 participants. They got 421.

This year’s goal is 500 runners, a goal that Rosas said they’re close to reaching.

Runners each get a goodie bag with a T-shirt, and a cowbell, customized with different colors each year, a collector’s item for repeat runners. Trucker hats and other items are also included. All finishers receive a medal and cash prizes are awarded to the top three male and female finisher of each race.

Participants are also treated to a full post-run breakfast.

The organization is always looking for more sponsors, volunteers to help things flow smoothly and participants to cheer runners on.

Last year, Visalia’s Chelsey Velde ran the half-marathon in 1 hour, 36 minutes, winning the womens’ division, while Jesus Campos of Fresno, finished the race in 72 minutes.   

“We’re hoping someone beats that record this year,” Rosas said.

Sentinel File Photo 

Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes

Motorcycle crash leaves one dead

HANFORD — A Hanford man is dead after being hit by a car after initially crashing his motorcycle.

On Friday just before 10 p.m., officers from the CHP Hanford area said they responded to the State Route 198 westbound off-ramp to State Route 43 for a report of a traffic collision with two people lying in the roadway.

During the course of the investigation, officers determined a 2016 Harley Davidson motorcycle was traveling westbound on State Route 198 and took the exit toward State Route 43. The motorcycle was being driven by a 58-year-old Hanford man with a 55-year-old female passenger, also from Hanford.

For reasons unknown at this time, the driver lost control of the motorcycle and CHP officials said both the driver and passenger were ejected from the motorcycle.

Moments after the initial collision, officials said a 2008 Honda was driving westbound on State Route 198 to State Route 43 and the car struck the male driver of the motorcycle, who was lying in the roadway.

The man died at the scene, and officers said the female passenger of the motorcycle complained of pain to her head and chest and was transported to Adventist Medical Center in Hanford.

The cause of this collision remains under investigation, but CHP officials said it appears alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the collision.