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Prosecutors in the case against Shaquille Lindsey, the former U.S. airman they claim struck and killed a Lompoc couple in 2016 while intoxicated, are seeking a court-ordered DNA test amid questions from the defense regarding the accuracy and reliability of blood samples attributed to the 25-year-old Georgia man.

During a brief appearance Friday in Lompoc Superior Court, Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca granted a request from both attorneys to delay the preliminary hearing, which began Jan. 10, until May 3 after the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office filed a motion ordering Lindsey to provide a sample of his DNA.

Defense attorney Kenneth Hamilton, who represents Lindsey, was ordered to respond to the prosecution's motion by Feb. 28 or have his client provide the sample within seven days. 

Ruben and Bertha Betancourt were killed on Aug. 28, 2016, after Lindsey allegedly veered over the double-yellow line into the northbound lane of Santa Lucia Canyon Boulevard, colliding head-on with their 2005 Ford Focus. Their son Juan Betancourt was also in the car and sustained major injuries.

In July 2017, Lindsey was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of DUI causing great bodily injury. The case was dismissed last July due to a jurisdictional issue stemming from an incorrect boundary marker for the Vandenberg Air Force Base property, and refiled by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office on Aug. 31, 2018.

Lindsey is now charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one felony count of DUI involving drugs (marijuana) causing injury. Prosecutors claim that Lindsey was driving 18 mph over the posted speed limit and was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. In addition, Lindsey also faces special allegations of causing great bodily injury for each felony count.

He pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Sept. 18, 2018.

According to the prosecutors' motion, Lindsey was transported by ambulance to Marian Regional Medical Center, where a blood test ordered by the emergency room doctor revealed a blood alcohol concentration under the 0.08 legal limit. The remaining blood sample — two tubes — was then sent to the United States Air Force's Office of Special Investigations for further testing.

When the samples were tested by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System on Sept. 16, 2016, a forensic toxicologist found both alcohol and narcotics in the blood. The samples were analyzed one last time by Forensic Toxicology Associates in Chatsworth, 17 months after the crash, at the request of the Federal Public Defender's Office, Lindsey's prior counsel.

Prior to the start of the preliminary hearing, Hamilton questioned the blood sample attributed to Lindsey due to a mismatch between his blood type (A-positive) and the reported blood sample collected at the time of his arrest (A-negative). Additional documentation, including documents from the Air Force and the results of a recent blood test, were provided to prosecutors to further establish Lindsey's A-positive blood type.

"Because the defendant is suggesting and arguing that the blood tested ... is not his, the People request that this court order the defendant provide his DNA so that the issue can be resolved," the motion reads. "Given the serious nature of the charged crimes, which resulted in the deaths of two people and serious injuries to a third, justice requires knowing whether the blood taken by [Marian] Regional belongs to the defendant so that the People can pursue the most serious and appropriate charges as to the defendant."

Approximately four drops of Lindsey's blood sample remain, an amount prosecutors say is sufficient for DNA testing.

The case will return March 12 for a hearing on the motion. This marks the second delay for the preliminary hearing — a matter that is typically heard consecutively or completed on the same day — after Montes de Oca granted the defense a one-month continuance in January to discuss the DNA issue.

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.