Veterans Village Tenant Convicted for Fatal Vehicle Altercation with Neighbor

Hall of Justice
The Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego. File photo

A San Diego woman who drove her car at her neighbor, who wound up clinging to the moving vehicle before she was thrown to the ground, causing fatal injuries, was convicted Wednesday of charges including assault with a deadly weapon.

Samantha Muniz, 45, was found guilty by a San Diego jury for the altercation that led to the June 27, 2022, death of Jennelle Self, 29.

Muniz was initially arrested on suspicion of murder but was only charged with the lesser counts. Prosecutors declined to comment on the charging decision.

She was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for the driving altercation, as well as counts of brandishing a knife and assault for two other incidents, both of which also involved Self.

Prosecutors said that on June 27, Self was standing in front of Muniz’s car when the defendant accelerated toward her. While Self clung to the car, Muniz continued driving until Self fell to the street.

Deputy District Attorney Kelsey Hollander said Self sustained blunt force trauma to her head and went into cardiac arrest. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.

At trial, Hollander detailed a longstanding feud between the women, who were neighbors at a Veterans Village of San Diego transitional housing property on Imperial Avenue.

Hollander alleged that just before Self was fatally injured, Muniz waved a knife in Self’s face during a heated argument. In February of 2022, Muniz threw a chair from her second story balcony, striking Self, who was below.

The February assault led Self to seek a temporary restraining order against Muniz, which a judge granted. In her restraining order request, Self alleged Muniz had struck her with a vehicle on another occasion and had threatened to stab her.

Defense attorney Bridget Rubin told jurors Muniz acted in self-defense and said Self was the aggressor.

Rubin alleged Muniz was trying to leave her home, but Self placed herself in front of her car and slammed her fists on the car’s hood in an attempt to provoke a fight.

The attorney alleged Muniz thought she had enough space to turn and drive away from Self, but Self jumped onto the vehicle.

Hollander told jurors Self did not pose a threat to Muniz, as she was behind the wheel of her car and armed with knives.

The prosecutor showed jurors a series of text messages in which Muniz referred to Self in derogatory terms, which Hollander said showed Muniz acted “out of anger and hatred” towards Self and not self-defense.

Muniz faces up to eight years in state prison at sentencing. She’s remained out of custody through the majority of the case and was ordered to report to court on Monday to be remanded to county jail.

City News Service contributed to this article.