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.