Former Fresno State graduate teaching assistant Lisa Ellen Spoors faces jury trial for murder


Courtesy of Fresno County Sheriff's Office

Lisa Ellen Spoors was arrested on Dec. 22, 2022.

By Jiselle Cardenas, News Editor

Lisa Ellen Spoors, a former Fresno State graduate teaching assistant, will be going to trial on murder charges after allegedly hitting and killing 15-year-old Rashad Al-Hakim Jr. last October. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Brian Alvarez made the ruling March 17.

After an approximately five-month long investigation by the Fresno Police Department, Spoors will undergo two separate trials.

One is a criminal case involving three felony charges, including murder.

“The maximum that [Spoors] is facing right now is four years, plus 15 years to life. That’s if she’s convicted of murder,” said District Attorney Steven Ueltzen to The Collegian.

The second one is a civil case asking for damages compensation from Spoors and the Fresno Unified School District.

Murder Trial

On Jan. 18, Spoors pleaded not guilty to murder, driving under the influence while causing injury, and hit-and-run resulting in permanent injury or death. Her bail was lowered from $1.5 million to $150,000.

The People of the State of California v. Lisa Ellen Spoors case has been issued to appeal the original plea Spoors made on Jan. 18, pleading not guilty.

Marc Kapetan is representing Spoors and Ueltzen is the prosecutor.

In Al-Hakim Jr.’s case, a toxicology report found that Spoors, who uses they/them pronouns, had a combination of illicit and prescription substances in their system at the time of the accident, according to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

According to public records, in 2008 Spoors was previously convicted of a DUI with a blood alcohol level of 0.19 and drugs in their system.

At the 2008 arraignment hearing, Spoors was advised that in the future they could be tried for murder if the offense was repeated, the case record stated.

Spoors will now be facing the three felony charges in a jury trial.

Ragina Bell v. Lisa Spoors; Fresno Unified School District

Ragina Bell, mother of Al-Hakim Jr., has filed a lawsuit, demanding a jury trial against Spoors and the Fresno Unified School District.

Bell and Al-Hakim Jr.’s family have publicly called attention to the role Hoover High School played in the death of the teenager.

“There’s not a dollar amount that can bring my son back,” Bell told the Collegian.

In her complaint, Bell said Al-Hakim Jr. was under the supervision of Hoover High and Fresno Unified School District when he was dismissed early from basketball practice.
Al-Hakim Jr. attempted to stay on campus, but was dismissed by FUSD employees, leaving him unsupervised and unattended, according to the complaint. The guardians of the teenager were also not notified of the dismissal.

When Al-Hakim Jr. was hit, there were no Fresno Unified employees or Hoover High personnel at the scene of the collision and a student witness called authorities, it said in the complaint.

Bell is filing the lawsuit due to negligence and negligent supervision of students.

“I pray that justice is served. My son didn’t deserve this. He had his whole life ahead of him. I pray that if taken to trial that she is found guilty of all charges and gets the maximum sentence. I have the whole community behind me helping to keep his name alive,” Bell said.

Preliminary hearing on March 15-17

The motions made by the The People of the State of California demanding a jury trial were met with an affirmative answer from Judge Alvarez, after the preliminary hearing on March 15-17 decided there was probable cause for a jury trial.

“It appearing to the Court that a felony has been committed and there being sufficient and probable cause to believe that the Defendant committed said felony, Defendant is hereby ordered HELD TO ANSWER as to count(s): 001, 002, 003 and enhancement pursuant to PC 12022.7(a),” court records state.

Patil Armenian, toxicologist and emergency room physician at Community Regional Medical Center, testified during the second day of the preliminary hearing. She reviewed the body camera footage of police officers interviewing Spoors and the toxicology reports.

Armenian said a blood sample from Spoors had multiple prescription drugs and methamphetamine. She told Ueltzen, the prosecutor, that the drugs could have potentially impaired Spoors’ ability to drive.

“It really causes a lot of inattention and confusion,“ Armenian said, as reported by The Fresno Bee. “I have seen it many times in car crash patients. People are not aware of their surroundings and whose reactions are not fast enough.”

The prescription medications that were apparent normally treat ADHD, anxiety, mental illness and seasonal allergies.

Kapetan, Spoors’ defense attorney, said a drug recognition evaluation done by one of the investigating officers at the scene found that Spoors was not under the influence and could safely administer a motor vehicle.

According to The Fresno Bee’s article, Kapetan referred to two Fresno police officer testimonies during the preliminary hearing. One officer who analyzed the crash said Spoors could not avoid hitting Al-Hakim Jr., and the other officer said Spoors was not under the influence.

Kapetan said the District Attorney’s Office was biased and was looking for a toxicologist who would bolster the prosecution’s narrative that Spoors was under the influence.

Kapetan asked Armenian how much she was paid by the prosecution, and Armenian answered $6,400 a day.

Prosecutor Ueltzen cited a voicemail message between Spoors and a friend six minutes before the collision with Al-Hakim Jr., talking about meeting a colleague after class to get “super stoned” in the Fresno State parking lot, according to The Fresno Bee’s article.

Ueltzen said that had Spoors been driving slower and aware of surroundings, the outcome would be different.

Arraignment hearing on April 3

On April 3 the arraignment hearing was officiated by Judge Gabriel Brickey.

The arraignment said that Spoors be kept in custody until the next hearing, and they are currently still in jail, according to public records.

The next arraignment hearing will take place on April 25.