Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “December, 2011”


By EOM Staff

California is one of 21 states that allow public employees to buy “air time”.  This practice allows state, municipal and school employees to add up to five years to their work history so they are eligible to retire and collect a lifetime pension.  Workers already eligible for retirement can buy extra years to boost a pension by up to 25%.  They are actually buying credit for non-existent work time.

Dan Pellissier, an advisor to former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, paid $75,000 in 2004 for five years of work credit.  In return, when he turns 55 in 2015, he will get a California pension of $61,536 a year, $13,000 more than if he hadn’t bought air time.  That’s $325,000 extra by the time he turns 80, all at the expense of California taxpayers.  Interestingly, Mr. Pellissier is now the president of California Pension Reform.  He is quoted in USA Today, Wednesday, December 28th, as saying “they give away the store here”.  Nice of him to worry about it now that he’s guaranteed his give-away.

Governer Jerry Brown has recently proposed barring the practice of buying air time.  But already inCalifornia, 34,202 people have bought air time just since 2005.  I wonder how many millions of dollars extra we are paying to those 34,202 people.  It’s no wonder the state of Californiais broke.


An Opinion from a Contributor

By Dave Thomas

Dear City Manager:
        Rendon’s Law states, “He who has nothing to hide, hides nothing.”  Dave’s Corollary states, “When someone obstructs the path to the truth, they are probably guilty of something.”

        The Citizens of Modesto support our City quite well.  We pay City employees four times the value of a civilian job.  We are respectful of our City’s servants, and generally trust them to do the right thing.  Thus, when the City acts in a way that generates questions of unethical behavior, we do more than crease our foreheads and assume the best.  In fact, we are pretty good at smelling the foul odor of misdeeds.  In the case of the Copy Cost Conundrum, it is readily apparent that the City is trying to deter the Modesto BEE reporters from finding the facts of a case of probable misuse of our Tax dollars.  This is not good for the image of our City leaders.

        One should recognize that the BEE is generally quite friendly to governments of all kinds.  It is especially friendly with our City’s government, with whom it has enjoyed the fruits of conviviality.  Today, the BEE is reporting on, and rightfully investigating, a major scandal involving federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.  The best place to find out what the City did, or failed to do, is from the City’s documents involved in the money trail.  The City can have only one of two possible reactions to being investigated by the BEE.  Either it proudly produces the german documents, proving beyond all possible doubt that it acted in the best interests of the Citizens.  The other choice would be to hide behind naive outsiders called “consultants”, refuse to deal openly with BEE reporters, and make the acquisition of documents very difficult, time consuming and expensive.  The first choice would generally be embraced by those who have nothing to hide.  The second choice would generally be embraced by those who not only are guilty of malfeasance, but who know they are guilty of very bad behavior, perhaps even misfeasance.  It is tragic to see that my City is not willing to cooperate with a friendly newspaper who has both the absolute right and the duty to report the truth about our City. 

        I have to tell you that I believe that the City should never, ever, ever, require a Citizen to pay for the documents which constitute the history and behavior of our City.  After all, Citizens own everything in City Hall, having paid a heavy price for them in the first place.  Our government exists to serve its Citizens, not bamboozle them; not to waste  Citizens’ tax money; not to obfuscate when Citizens ask questions; not to refuse to provide answers to legitimate questions; and certainly, not to hide mistakes or possible crimes committed against these same Citizens.

        This charade has gone on long enough.  As a private citizen and the representative of the Taxpayers Association, I respectfully request that the City simply come clean about where NSP funds have been spent, who got what and when, and provide a full disclosure as to the behavior of those associated with its activities.  Open your records to the BEE, get out of their way, and instead of using economic retaliation to impair their investigation, provide a comfortable desk, coffee and doughnuts for them.   Let our government act like a responsible Citizen and let the chips fall where they may. 

        Thank you very much, Dave Thomas

An Opinion on a National Issue: Entitlement or Opportunity

By EOM Staff

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has an article in today’s edition of USA Today, discussing whether we want to be a country of entitlement or opportunity.  He contends that President Obama has turned us into a country of entitlement by expanding government into health care, finance, energy, industry, the environment and labor.  I am not going to comment on whether he is right or wrong about that. 
What I find interesting, is that all of the GOP candidates promote smaller, less intrusive government, claiming that having that will get us back on course to be a country of opportunity.  What they fail to see is that they are denying opportunity to a large portion of American citizens by trying to take away their right to birth control.  The ability to control when and how often a woman gives birth is fundamental to the opportunities she can provide for herself and her family.  You can have a career if you don’t have a baby every year.  You can send 1, 2 or 3 children to college, but can you afford to send 10?  You can provide good nutritious food and quality health care for 2 or 3 children, but what if you had 12?
The state of Virginia is attempting to ban the birth control pill.  I’m sure there will be lawsuits filed and eventually it will be settled in the courts.  In the meantime, other states will follow suit.  Some states are trying to pass laws giving rights to a fertilized egg.  Giving those rights takes away the rights of women.  The GOP isn’t exactly known for being “family friendly”.  They want to cut aid to dependent children, they want to cut WIC (women, infants and children) programs.  They don’t even like the part of Obama’s health care plan that allows parents to keep their children on their insurance until the age of 25. 
And now they want to stop us from preventing pregnancies.  What could be more intrusive?
Do we want this to be a country that denies a basic human right to a large percentage of it’s population?

Kari Abbey Prelim Summations the Long Version

By Emerson Drake

District Attorney Dave Harris

The afternoon started out quietly with D.A. Harris sitting at the table softly reciting the events of last week’s hearings.  He started by describing the various ways Rita Elias had made the world aware of where she lived over the summer.  How her ex-common law husband had brought her children over to visit about ten times and always to the 1708A Donaldson address.

And how, when arrested in August, Rita had given the 1708A address to the Probation Department including providing them with a diagram of the apartment and where her bedroom was in relationship to those of others.  She even had a cable bill in her name at that address since cable service was part of the overhead she paid.  Just three weeks prior to the shooting she had told Deputy Hooper that she lived there as he documented in a report.

James Abbey had told the officers the night of the shooting he and Kari were there to collect the rent or evict them that night.  He also had admitted to Officers Kari and Rita had gotten in a fight with Kari ending up on top of Rita, pummeling her until James Abbey told her to stop. Harris reminded the court another witness had related how Elias said if she hadn’t been wearing heals Abbey wouldn’t have won.  James Abbey’s response to her was “bring it on.”  He then he told Elias “if you don’t leave I’ll sick Kari on you again.”

We were reminded of the times where Abbey had used her relationship withModestopolice and her badge to remain in control of situations when police were called. Kari and James Abbey and Bennie Taylor sometimes used ‘self help’ up to and including violent acts against tenants as Harris called it to perform illegal evictions of tenants behind in their rent payments.

DA Harris sited Daluiso vs. Boone, a Supreme Court decision that when performing unlawful evictions anything that came afterward was illegal.

Harris then pointed out the 106 plants were many times more than the Compassionate Act allowed and while acknowledging James Abbey had a recommendation, it didn’t cover this many plants and that James Abbey had admitted to investigators he had sold some of his harvested buds.  The second recommendation from someone in the foothills didn’t count since there was no evidence that James was the other persons’ caregiver. The third card was expired and wasn’t valid.

Harris went on to the embezzlement charge, reminding the Judge of the statements of two co-workers who had complained to her supervisor that Kari was spending 50% of her time on non-work related business.  The supervisor works in another location, so direct supervision was impossible.  The co-workers complained that she spent 50% of her time on her property management, and that there was a “for sale” and a “for rent” sign in her county issued car.

Harris also points out that ‘flex time’ excuse given by the defense doesn’t hold water.  And that Abbey had used her professional relationships to get fellow Officers to perform evictions for her with out Abbey having to pay the fee the Sheriff’s Office charges landlords.

Harris’ delivery through out his summation is calm and deliberate and he remained seated the entire time.

Defense Attorney Michael Rains

Now it was Defense attorney Michael Rains’ turn.  He said he felt the need to educate the people in the courtroom about prelims and what they were for but to be honest it seemed like he was addressing the judge through, or should I say instead, of  the observers in the courtroom. He reminded everyone of how his specialty is defending accused police officers and he had tried cases in many different counties but his experience here was limited and he hoped this county was like the others. He was concerned that this case might be a public relations ploy for the District Attorney’s office. 

Defense Attorney Rains’ style is to pace and apply histrionics (exaggerated expression or emotion) to his delivery.

He tells the court most times at prelims the prosecutor is smug and confident and while he doesn’t accuse Harris of this it reminds one of the act in Julius Caesar when Anthony says Brutus is an honorable man but means the exact opposite.  Defense attorney Harris says that most if not all of these charges should be thrown out and claims it was self-defense.  He also says that “cops will be charged with murder all the time if this is allowed to continue”. 

Rains uses the phrase “crafty claims” by the prosecution and denies that the facts the DA is using are real.  He actually suggests that just because she had a cable bill in her name at this address, doesn’t mean that she lives there.  Rains quotes Sally Pantoja saying that she didn’t see a fight between Abbey and Elias and he claims that the autopsy shows hair was pulled out of the scalp, but no hair was found at the scene, suggesting that the fight took place somewhere else.  

According to testimony the autopsy stated there was bruising on the scalp, suggesting that hair was pulled.  It was never suggested that hair was pulled from the scalp.  He suggested that the autopsy evidence of Rita having blunt force trauma to her hands and face could have been Elias hitting Abbey, not the other way around. 

Rains then tries to work in some hearsay that the judge had not allowed in hearings last week.  Harris objects and is sustained.  Rains says that Sally Pantoja was a credible witness despite the fact that she wouldn’t answer her door twice when police were trying to find witnesses to what happened.  Presumably she didn’t answer because she was on probation and under the influence of an illegal substance. 

 He actually claims that Kari Abbey was obligated to shoot Rita Elias as a police officer, despite her not being there in an official capacity.  He says the DA is waging a smear campaign against his client.  He also says the conspiracy case is a “wobbler”, meaning it could be a felony or misdemeanor.  He tries to make the claim that Bennie Taylor wasn’t there at all three instances of illegal evictions, so how can it be a conspiracy? 

He calls Quantana, who was assaulted by Bennie Taylor during an attempt to collect past due rent, a professional squatter. In the attempt to evict Quantana, the Abbey’s refused to supply a rental agreement despite his having paid about $1200 as a deposit.  As a result, Mr. Quantana was forced to generate a false rental agreement in an attempt to obtain electricity.  This would be the third time the Abbeys have been shown to either turn off the electricity as they did at the 1708 Donald home, the night of the shooting, and during the attempted eviction onWiley Drive.  

Rains reminds the court that he introduced eighteen rental agreements where the renter was required to pay for the electricity and had Investigator Hermosa read where the renter was required to provide the electricity in all those instances.

As far as the embezzlement charge is concerned, he suggests they have nothing but hearsay, with disgruntled co-workers alleging that she was only working a50% of the time.  He actually says the law language in the embezzlement charge is ambiguous at best and one is required to use the “rule of reasonableness”.

Once again, Rains accuses the DA of a smear job and tries to blame Abbey for the marijuana grow and tries to play it off as a medical grow, despite the fact log books and scales were found and James Abbey told police officers that he sold it.

Rains says that Kirk Bunch perjured himself by saying the MID bill found in Abbey’s bedroom was for the house and shed.  Rains pointed out that TID services that area. 

When he talks about the child endangerment charge, he reminds the court of the two pictures of the shotgun found in the couch with the child’s toy found near the trigger in one, but it was moved in the second one. 

I smell a rat.

Defense attorney Rains suggests the evidence was planted and said quite dramatically, “I smell a rat”.  Defense Attorney Rains’ presentation seemed more like a stage actors dramatic portrayal that’s been over-dramatized and filled with hyperbole. 

District Attorney Harris’ rebuttal.

DA Harris discussed the two pictures of the shotgun, pointing out to the court, the first one with the toy next top the trigger was taken to show how the weapon appeared when they found it.  The second one shows that the four shotgun shells had been removed from the gun, so obviously the movement of the toy was inconsequential.  Harris points out “to have guns where a six year old can reach them is inherently dangerous”. 

Concerning the marijuana grow, three cards were found.  One was expired and the second gave no indication that James Abbey was a caregiver to the card holder, the third was James Abbey’s, but the Compassionate Care Act doesn’t allow that quantity of plants and never allows sales.   The court is reminded that James Abbey admitted to investigators that he sometimes sold marijuana. The path that leads to the horse trailer in back that held sheriff’s posse tack and saddles, is where the three potted marijuana plants were found by investigators and where they noticed the strong smell of marijuana.

Mortgage paperwork for the house and shed, although in Kari, James and Denise Abbeys name, was found in Kari Abbey and Bennie Taylor’s bedroom, showing that Kari Abbey had been paying the mortgage for the house and shed and the electricity bill for both the house and the shed.

If you count the properties owned by Kari Abbey, James Abbey and Bennie Taylor, along with the company PLM, and now the recently introduced 18 more properties, it’s possible that Kari Abbey was managing 31 properties.  Deputies found a rental and a for sale sign in her county issued car.  Kari Abbey had been using her professional relationships with fellow deputies to deliver eviction notices and wasn’t paying the county mandated fee to the sheriff’s department. 

On the night of the shooting, James Abbey told investigators “we were going to get the rent or we were going to evict them”.  

Conspiracy is defined as an unlawful agreement to perform an unlawful purpose or act, so by James and Kari going to “get the rent or evict them”, it shows there was a conspiracy.  Defense attorney Rains had made claims that a landlord can go into a home at anytime, so therefore, there was no “trespass” that night.  DA Harris pointed out the law Rains quoted was from 1946 and there have been many changes regarding rental rights since then.  When a renter is in the home, they have the same legal rights as if they were the owner.  Kari, James or Bennie entering any rental property where somebody was already in the home is trespassing.  He says the law has to protect “lesser individuals” and that Abbey never identified herself as a police officer in the performance of her duty and as such, never gave Rita Elias the chance to surrender. 

He reminds the court that Jose Flores, Kari’s apartment manager, stated to investigators that Kari said to Rita, “come on, if you want to fight me, come back up here”, when Rita was in the street preparing to leave.  Kari goaded her into returning.  Its Rita returning back to the duplex that Judge Ricardo Cordova says justifies the self-defense.

After the hearing Rains spoke to observers, and mentioned he was concerned the DA would re-file the murder or manslaughter charges.  He plans to continue preparing a defense in case that happens.

How can she live with herself?

An Opinion By EOM Staff


How can she live with herself?




Kari Abbey won’t stand trial for murder or manslaughter, even after a witness told police that Abbey went to her car, got her gun, and crept along the front of the duplex peeking in the window to see what Rita was doing.  Abbey’s children were in the car waiting for her.  She could have left and taken her children away from a dangerous situation.  Instead she went back, waited for Rita to come out and killed her.  Abbey’s children witnessed their mother murdering a woman.  What effect will that have on their psyche? 




How can she live with herself?




She was a law enforcement officer.  She and all other law enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard.  She was trained to diffuse tense situations.  Instead, she instigated a situation that lasted over an hour and led to a death by her hand.




How can she live with herself?




Part of her job with the Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department was to investigate cases of child endangerment.  Yet in her home were loaded weapons within reach of her very young children. She sent people to prison for doing what she was doing.  And now her children have witnessed a murder.




How can she live with herself?




Kari Abbey had in her possession 16 vials of steroids.  Steroids are known to cause uncontrollable rage.  She voluntarily injected herself with a drug that caused her uncontrollable rage that led to the murder of a woman.  How many other law enforcement officers was she supplying steroids for?  Her father, James Abbey, must have known about her steroid use, and used it to his advantage when dealing with tenants.  It was testified to in court that he said to Rita, “leave, or I’ll turn her loose on you again”. 




How can she live with herself?




There is a legal process to go through when evicting a tenant.  Tenants have rights.  Kari Abbey, her father and her husband, repeatedly disregarded the rights of their tenants.  They used force, violence, and illegal means (disruption of utility services) to force their tenants out.  Now they have resorted to murder.  Are any of their tenants safe?




How can she live with herself?




There were over 100 marijuana plants at her house.  Sure, James Abbey swears they were his.  Kari Abbey and other members of law enforcement send people to prison for growing marijuana, yet she felt it was okay for her and her family to do that.  Was she providing marijuana for other law enforcement officers, along with steroids?




How can she live with herself?




Kari Abbey will get to spend this Christmas with her family, most importantly, with her children.  Rita’s children will be missing their mother this Christmas, as they were last year.  They will miss her when they go on their first dates.  When they go to their first prom.  When they celebrate their birthdays and remember her on hers.  They will certainly miss introducing her to the men they may choose to marry someday.  And believe me, they will be missing her when they have their own children.  Kari Abbey has all of these important moments to look forward to with her children.  She has stolen all of those moments from three little girls. 




How can she live with herself?






Judge Refuses to Bind Abbey Over for Murder and Manslaughter

By Emerson Drake

The announcement brought several audible gasps from the Rita Elias family since they believed they had heard enough evidence to bind Kari Abbey over for trial on both the Murder and Manslaughter charges.

Judge Cordova stated that since Kari Abbey had allowed Rita Eilas the chance to escape after giving her a severe beating and it was Rita who returned to the apartment saying she was going to get her gun, Kari Abbeys subsequent actions of shooting Rita Elias three times including once in the back is considered in his mind self-defense.

The judge failed to address D.A.Harris’ contention of self-defense not being allowed  despite saying it was Kari Abbey who started the tragic series of events.

Judge Cordova did bind Kari Abbey over for trial on count :

#3 Conspiracy to commit a crime

#4 embezzled property by a public or private officer

#5 Plant/Cultivation ect. Marijuana/Hashish

#7 Willful cruelty to a child possible injury or death

#6 Receiving stolen property was also denied.

The D.A. can re-present the murder and manslaughter charges to another judge in the future if he chooses.

The next hearing will be 1/23/12

Kari Abbey Prelim Final Arguments Today

As an observer at the preliminary examinations one couldn’t help but notice a few things absent from the discussion. When you read the District Attorney’s list of items discovered on the Abbey property and compare it to the charges, a few details seem to be missing.  D.A. Harris uses the AR-15 as a contributing part of a child endangerment, but he fails to mention that it had been illegally altered from its manufactured state and was fully automatic.  And he never reveals where the illegal ‘sawed-off’’ shotgun was located.  Was it the shotgun found in the couch also used to support the endangerment charge? 

And maybe more importantly why were illegally altered (fully automated AR-15 and  sawed off shotgun) gun ownership charges NOT filed since each of these is a felony count?  And since murder charges were filed, why is it gun enhancement charges weren’t, since everyone else charged with murder while using a gun, has had them added? 

Maybe today will provide some answers.  The hearing should be interesting.

We’ll be back with the happenings from court this afternoon.

The State of Virginia Sets Women Back 50 Years

By Louise Taylor

Virginia had a state election last month and the Republicans won by an overwhelming majority.  So, you might wonder, what is the first order of business for the newly elected Republicans?  Is it providing jobs?  Is it helping the poor or needy?  Is it helping students receive a good education?  Is it helping uninsured people get health care? No, their first order of business is to ban all abortions, regardless of circumstance.  In addition to that, they want to ban “all hormonal birth control”.  That means the birth control pill, the most commonly used form of birth control nation-wide, may now be banned inVirginia.  We can be certain of the results of this type of legislation:  illegal abortions resulting in the deaths of many young women, an increase in the number of families and children living in poverty, and a drop in the number of girls that graduate from high school.  Teens have sex, whether we want them to or not and by taking away a teen-age girls ability to prevent pregnancy, you are condemning her (and her children) to a life of poverty.

The birth control pill is a remarkable advance in the ability of women to plan and space their children as they see fit.  It allows college age women to finish their educations and start their career path prior to having children.  It allows young mothers to go back to work without the worry of having a baby every year.  Countless studies have shown that women who have fewer babies and space them appropriately are healthier and happier, as are their children.

Ultimately, it is the middle-class and lower-class women who will suffer from this legislation.  The wealthy women who experience an unwanted pregnancy can afford to travel to a state that allows safe abortions. 

The second order of business for these newly elected representatives?  Jobs?  Healthcare?  Education?  Reduce poverty?  These would all be worthwhile endeavors for politicians of any political affiliation, but that’s not what’s going to happen inVirginia. Virginia will now try to make it legal to discriminate in the area of adoption.  Not only will you be banned from adopting a child if you are gay, but other “legal” reasons to stop someone from adopting a child will include:  gender (I guess if you’re a man or a woman, you can’t adopt), disability, religion and POLITICAL AFFILIATION!  That’s right – you might be denied the ability to adopt a child inVirginia because you are Jewish, or Catholic, or atheist, or Buddhist, or because you are a democrat!  I guess there are plenty of straight, Republican, (insert appropriate religion here), inVirginiato adopt all those needy children.  They’ve sure made it impossible for anyone else to adopt. 

Don’t Republicans care about children?  Why do they condemn children who have yet to be conceived to a life of poverty?  Why don’t they care about children already living, who need good homes?  Why can’t they do better?

Modesto Irrigation District Meeting: The Changing of the Guard

By Emerson Drake

Newly elected MID Directors Larry Byrd and Nick Blom took their respective seats on the dais today.  For the many who have never been to a MID meeting the dais is U shaped with the two end seats facing each other.

While they don’t have officially designated seating, in days gone by they actually sat by the number of the district they represent.  But with the seating of the two new Board members, Glen Wild, Division 1, apparently felt the need to sit next to his mentor/advisor in all things MID, related Tom Van Groningen who has been sitting on the far right.  Van Groningen, Division 3 used to be in the middle but when Paul Warda was elected Board President a year ago, Paul assumed the center seat.

 Hey, Wait a Darn Minute. Is Our Electricity Costing More then Necessary?

The quiet yet controversial discussion revolving around MID’s unusual way of approaching their “green” portfolio is curious.  Currently MID has renewable energy at 27% of our generating needs and that will increase to 29% when the McHenry solar acreage comes on line.  By law we aren’t required to have even 20% until 2013 and 28% until 2016.  While all of us appreciate the head start toward mandated goals, it means we as ratepayers are being required by MID to pay more for our electricity than actually necessary.  To put MID’s energy costs in perspective, hydro electricity is .03 kwh.  Gas turbine generation costs are .06-07kwh. The recently negotiated solar costs are .14-17kwh and escalating as time goes by depending on which numbers you quote

These surpluses do roll over but they only roll for 36 months. These credits are nice but MID didn’t offer information to show how much we actually benefit as these credits get “stale” and fall off,  and are lost.  With our excessive “head start” the extra money MID ratepayers are  now paying will be wasted and lost. 

I have to admit their story sounds nice until you sit back and think about it.  Then “Hey wait a darn minute” comes out of your mouth.

The decision was made to sign a contract with Fayez Sarofim and Company to transfer about $33 million dollars from under G.E. guidance since it was felt that the investments G.E had been overseeing had been underperforming for the past two years.

A squabble over the Don Pedro Recreation Agency’s (DPRC) desire to raise overnight fees on weekends and to almost double the cost of going to the “Fireworks Day display” has been brewing for about four weeks. Former Board member Cecil Hensley had been against the rate increases and Larry Byrd is continuing his stand against raising the rates.

It first appeared it was going to be a 3-2 vote with Byrd and Blom against and Warda, Wild, and Van Groningen in favor.  But at the last minute Van Groningen voted against the increase and requested staff member Bill Ketchner to approach the DPRC and attempt to talk with them again.  This is interesting because Cecil Hensley, who Larry succeeded when Cecil retired, was a voting member and MID’s representative to the Dom Pedro Rec. Agency Board of Control and it was expected Larry would assume the role as MID’s torch bearer.

The two members of the public who spoke were against the rate increase.  One speaker noted that other the members of the  DPRC,  who are  Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and the City and County of San Francisco, don’t seem to have a problem with raising the rates on the weekend campers without exhausting cost cutting efforts first since weekends are usually booked close to capacity.  And that San Francisco was known for their “Tax and Spend” approach to financial problems and hoped MID would stand against taking the easy way out.

In a final bit of business for the year, Tom Van Groningen was elected Board President for the next year and Van Groningen’s sycophant and rubberstamp, Glen Wild, will be the Vice President.

Kari Abbey prelim Exam – Day Four

By Emerson Drake

To open the day, the defense presents Sally Ann Pantoja.  She lived at 2012 Donald back in September of 2010. 

Defense attorney Rains first has her explain how she rents from Kari Abbey, as does her best friend Julie Perez who was renting from Ms. Abbey at the time. She explains another of her friends was looking for a place and that she’s talked with Abbey about this friend renting a house from her and had left her number with Abbey.  Responding to questions she states, she didn’t really know Rita Elias but had been introduced to her by her friend Julie.  She said Rita comes and goes from the 1780A address frequently.  Also that she knows the two men living there better than she knew Rita. 

The night of the shooting she said she heard shouting outside and went into her front yard and saw Rita Elias (the Mexican woman is how Pantoja describes Rita) picking up her personal belongings out of the street and placing them in her backpack.

A tall, older white male was engaged in an argument with Rita.  Julie told Sally that the male was Mr. Abbey.  He was yelling at Rita “If you don’t get off of my property I’ll let her get you.”  Rita responds that she doesn’t have to leave. Then James Abbey yells at her again to get off of his property.  Pantoja says Rita was cursing at James.

Ms. Pantojo states during this time she didn’t hear Kari saying anything. That just the man and Rita were arguing.

Just as she believes Rita, having gathered all of her belongings in the backpack, is going to leave, she says Rita then said. “Fuck this, I’m going to get my gun.”  Rita sets the backpack down by Pantoja’s fence and then walks quickly across the street, past the cars, into the apartment and comes back out with a stick/branch in her left hand and what we now know as a bb gun in her right.

At this point Sally Pantoja runs up to her own porch and when she reaches it she hears what she describes as five gunshots.  Sally says she didn’t see any of the shooting. When asked who was there, at the beginning she said only she and Ester Elipo, the occupant of 1708B.  Only after being prompted by Rains did she mention Jose Flores for the first time. She now mentions she watched Jose Flores get in his truck and drive off.  She then hears Kari say someone call 911.  Sally explains this was the first thing she heard Kari say.

On cross examination by D.A. Harris, her story changes slightly and she gets mixed up repeatedly.   

Sally tells the court she didn’t know who Kari Abbeys manager Jose Flores was, and that she had never seen him around before.  She also says James Abbey, in response to Rita’s cursing and saying she wouldn’t leave, said “Rita, get off my property or I’ll let Kari loose on you.”   Responding to further questioning by D.A. Harris, Sally explains that the reason the Sheriff’s Deputies hadn’t talked with her before is that when they knocked on her door that night she hid and wouldn’t answer, When Sally was asked why she explained she was on parole and she didn’t want them to take her to jail.

The deputies went around a second time attempting to find witnesses and knocked on her door but she still refused to answer.  Sally admitted her front door had been open during the first attempt to contact her but she still didn’t answer.  Sally also said the only two vehicles she saw that night were the pick-up and the jeep.  She didn’t see Kari Abbey’s sheriff’s car with the children in it.  But she claims to have seen the children afterward.

LeAnn Rae Wesner-Donaldson took the stand.  She’s been with Children and Family Services for nine and a half years.  She was called to the home by George Papadopoulos.  When she arrived the children had already been taken to the other grandparents home onMuncy Drive.   

She testified she had been shown the three weapons found in the home.  She said Papadopoulos told her the weapons all needed racked (a cartridge inserted) but that their magazines were loaded but had been separated by the time she arrived.

Later she interviewed the children, ages one and six.

Robert McFarlane, a private investigator for the defense attorneys firm then took the stand. He introduced and walked us through portions of a DVD taken at the home of James and Denise Abbey.  Included were scenes from the living room, a second bedroom used by a child, the second bathroom, and Kari Abbey and Bennie Taylor’s walk in bedroom closet.

He also discusses the samurai swords on the wall and the one on a lower shelf in the Abbey/Taylor side of the house.  He made a point the lower sword on the stand within reach of the children was “duller than a butter knife.”

He is asked about the diagram of the apartments at 1708 Donald.  He points out in pictures taken at the scene the window appears to be in a different location than in the diagram.  But under questioning he acknowledges that after the shooting a deputy had used a laser range finder to measure the distances from a variety of set points on the apartment to set points on the vehicles in the driveway.

Mr. McFarlane created a diagram of the houses (three) located at 712S. Santa Cruz.  These are rentals owned by the Abbeys.  His representation of the area is supposed to create some doubt as to the story about Kari Abbey throwing tenant Victor Quintana’s stored items in the side yard.  But D.A. Harris shows McFarlane a google overhead photo that proximately displays the shortcomings of the diagram and its lack of scale accuracy and suggests the original story regarding the belongings could have been accurate.

D.A. Harris took pains to get introduced to the record that having a small amount of meth might not mean one is under the influence of the drug.  And that one of the ways used to measure if someone has ingested the drug is to measure the residue of the kidney’s cleaning the system.

The next hearing for Kari Abbey will be next Monday where the attorneys for both sides will present final arguments.

Post Navigation