By Emerson Drake
Prior to Judge Ricardo Cordova coming out, the bailiff Officer Lackey informed the public regarding “special rules” Judge Cordova had imposed. No outbursts or sound effects regarding testimony or you would be asked to leave and wouldn’t be allowed to return for the duration of the trial hearings. Also the courtroom would be dismissed in shifts, first one side then the other. We were told this was to avoid confrontations between the sides. Fortunately nothing even remotely like that occurred during the day.
When Judge Cordova joined us he reiterated the bailiff’s statements and included that he understood this could be very emotional at times and a display of emotion would be understood.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Vince Hooper took the stand. He was the first of the Sheriff’s Officers (SO) to arrive on the scene. He was greeted by three Modesto Police Officers who had attempted CPR on Rita Elias and had then secured the scene to preserve the evidence.
S.O. Detective Jon McQueary told the courtroom about autopsy results, bruising on Rita’s scalp being consistent with hair being pulled, abrasions on Rita’s face and mouth being consistent with blunt force trauma consistent with that of a fist.
He also related the autopsy findings about the three gunshot wounds Rita suffered. The first one went directly to the body. The second entered above her elbow and exited on the inside of her arm, entered her chest, went through her lung and lodged in her heart.
The third bullet entered her back.
All three wounds were considered sub-lethal by the pathologist Dr. Carpenter. His report indicated she would have died within minutes.
The defense attorney suggested Rita’s arm was raised and suggested Rita was pointing a gun. But when D.A. Dave Harris crossed, he pointed out Rita would have to have been contorting her body almost 120 degrees (visualize pointing your right arm straight out to your side then pointing it about two feet behind you. Difficult to believe when you consider testimony later suggested Rita came around the right side of Abbey’s parked Scion and Abbey was to her left.
Det. McQueary also testified that six casings from a .40 caliber glock semi-automatic were found at the scene. So far no one has accounted for the three missing slugs.
S.O. Detective Francisco Soria, lead investigator in the case told us about the interviews with Kari Abbey’s uilding manager/handyman, who lived in one of Abbey’s houses. Det. Sorano related how Mr Flores alleged he arrived at 1708 Donald just before Kari and James Abbey after a phone call to the Abbeys to collect rent money from the tenants who were $600.00 behind. They found Abbey in front of 1701B talking on a cell phone that was never recovered.
Abbey confronted Rita and told her she had to leave, Rita then set a backpack and a purse outside and then accompanied the Abbeys and Flores inside where James Abbey commented “at least they didn’t wreck the place.”
Abbey and Elias began to argue when Abbey threw Elias’ backpack and purse into the street. Elias reclaimed her property and soon the two women began to fight. It wasFlores statement that fists were flying when Elias went down. Abbey managed to jump on top of her and continued to wail on her with her fists.
James Abbey yelled at Kari to stop and they separated. But the argument continued. Rita saying she was losing because she was wearing high heels and Abbey yelled back “then come and get some more.”
According to testimony they were screaming profanities at each other. Elias said she knew where they lived and she would get even.Flores told the investigator James Abbey yelled to Elias to bring it on.
Flores told Det. Sorano that Elias went back in the apartment for about five minutes. He also stated he watched Abbey go to her car and get her gun and wait for Rita to come back outside.
When Elias emerged from the apartment she was carrying a pruned tree branch and the replica BB pistol. Elias allegedly came around the right side of the car (looking at it from the apartment door) and Abbey was around the car to her left when the shots were fired,
Flores continues to claim he had gone back to his truck (which was on the far right again using the front door as a reference point and didn’t actually see the shooting but says he saw Rita on the ground moaning in pain before he left. Floresthen got in his truck saying he didn’t want to be involved and left.
When James Abbey was questioned on Sept. 24th he told police “no one else was there.”
On Sept. 28th James Abbey said he didn’t know who Flores is. And finally on October 4th he acknowledges Flores is his daughters’ apartment manager, but doesn’t know whenFlores’ truck arrived or left. James Abbey also admits to shutting off the power to the apartment before they entered the night of the shooting.
It wasn’t until the next day when neighbors told police about the truck that investigators were made aware of a witness to the shooting.
Other points were made on Tuesday regarding the embezzlement charge. Two of Kari Abbey’s former co-workers told D.A. investigator Mark Smith about working with Abbey, saying Kari seemed to be spending half of her scheduled time on personal business.
The defense attorney made a motion to exclude this testimony but after some legal wrangling (the statute of limitations doesn’t start on an embezzlement charge until the activity is discovered , otherwise it’s four years.)
So the testimony was allowed. One of her co-workers had gone to internal affairs to report Abbey’s activity and refused to work with her after that. The second one felt so uncomfortable she managed to be “busy” and avoid working with Abbey.
Also Jose Flores said he had made the agreement to rent the apartment to the two men and that there was no written agreement and that he didn’t care who lived there.
Day Two Tomorrow.