Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Kari Abbey Preliminary Exam Day Three

By Emerson Drake

D. A. Investigator Kirk Bunch takes the stand:  He starts to describe what was found in the back shed or shop area.  On a side note I’m not sure that description does it justice.  A large picture behind the witness shows it has a main living area complete with couch and a kitchen area set back in the rear.  Also there is an alcove with room for a large bed and dresser above the kitchen area.  But we haven’t seen a blown up picture of the outside so I can’t relay what it appears like on the outside but it keeps being referred to as a metal building. The grow room is off to the right through a doorway.


In a closet in the building he discovers two uniforms.  One is Kari’s deputy uniform and the other is Bennie’s Hayward Police Dept. uniform.


Found in the main room is a digital scale and three bags of weighed packaged marijuana. The grow room contains 106 plants from16” to 59” tall. Grow lights, timers, pumps and system for supplementing and refreshing the air are also found. In the main room by the sink are stems from the cleaning process. It was a decision by Kirk Bunch that the marijuana grow was not in compliance withCalifornia’s Compassionate Use Act.


Behind the back building is a horse trailer containing saddles and tack from the Sheriff’s Posse. Three potted pot plants are located on the path to the horse trailer.


Bunch testifies Kari Abbey was paying the mortgage and electric bill for the house and shed.


In the main house inside Kari and Bennie’s closet are found several bullet proof vests which lot numbers are later introduced as having been purchased by the Hayward PD.


Between the mattress and box spring an AR-15 is found with a loaded magazine. In a drawer 33” off the ground in the kitchen island is a loaded 22 caliber pistol.  Behind the back cushions on the couch 23” off the ground in the living room is found a shotgun with four shells in the tube but none in the chamber. The locations and heights off the floor were testified to by Child Services Investigator George Papadopoulos <sp> .


Also introduced into evidence was a Hayward Police report where the HPD had discovered a marijuana growing operation owned by Bennie Taylor and rented to Ramandi Springfield <sp>. A receipt of an electric payment made by Bennie Taylor in the amount of $4,000.00 for the grow operation was found in the Abbey/Taylor bedroom.


Ramandi now owns a marijuana shop inSan Jose.

Ms. Abbey’s defense attorney asked several questions of Investigator Papadopoulos concerning the placement of the weapons found in Kari Abbey’s home.  Mr. Papadopoulos had taken pictures of all of the weapons when he arrived on the scene.  The weapons had been discovered by Officer David Shaw who informed the investigator that they were loaded when he found them. There was some discussion as to what “loaded” actually means.  Does it mean there was actually a round in the chamber ready to fire, or would the round have to be levered into the chamber?  The weapon photographed on the couch had a toy figurine near the trigger. Mr. Papadopoulos was questioned on whether or not someone could have placed the figurine there.  He indicated it was there when he arrived and he would have no knowledge of how it got there.

The AR-15 was found between the box spring and a tempur-pedic mattress.  When Mr. Papadopoulos arrived in the bedroom, the mattress had been moved back to show the AR-15 laying on the box spring.  The defense attorney questioned whether or not a child would be able to move a heavy tempu-rpedic mattress, and the investigator replied “maybe not, but they could reach between the box spring and mattress.”  A 22 caliber handgun was found in a kitchen drawer.  The defense attorney referred to this as a “secret drawer” in an attempt to show that Abbey’s children wouldn’t have had access to it.  Mr. Papadopoulos said he didn’t know if it was a secret drawer, as it was part of the kitchen island, but it did not have a handle and would be opened by pulling on the sides or underneath the drawer.

Investigator Hermosa was recalled to the stand and questioned about photos of the weapons.  Hermosa indicated that he took pictures and believed that the FBI took video and pictures of the execution of the search warrant.  Mr. Hermosa also testified that he spent some time talking to James Abbey in the drive-way of the residence.  At that time, he and Mr. Abbey saw officers walking to the area where the marijuana plants were found.  Mr. Abbey offered his keys to the officers and said “don’t ruin my plants”.  He also stated that he didn’t sell marijuana for a living.

Sergeant Larry Simka was called to the stand and testified that he worked for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years.  He supervised Kari Abbey from July 2007 to February 2009.  She was given assignments related to crimes against children, elder abuse and domestic violence.  He testified that he was certain that Ms. Abbey had arrested people for child endangerment, but did not know if any of those arrests related to guns being within the reach of children.

Sergeant Simka also explained the department’s “flex-time” policy.  If you worked past your scheduled hours in one day, you could work a short day within the same pay period.  He testified that Ms. Abbey generally took her over-time as “flex-time” instead of over-time pay.  Simka was asked if he was aware that Ms. Abbey was a property manager and he explained that he was aware of that because at one time Ms. Abbey said she needed to use flex-time to deal with some zoning issues concerning rental properties.

District Attorney Dave Harris questioned Simka about complaints concerning Kari Abbey.  Simka had received complaints that Ms. Abbey was not available when other employees needed her.  He also received complaints that she spent a lot of time on personal phone calls.  Harris also asked Simka if he was aware that Ms. Abbey took “multiple lunch periods in a single day”, and would take McDonalds to her kids on county time.  Simka indicated he was not aware of that.  DA Harris asked Simka if he was aware that Kari Abbey was studying for a real estate license and that she was managing twenty-plus properties, and other deputies were going with Abbey on county time to serve eviction paperwork.  Sgt. Simka indicated that he was not aware of this.

When Ms. Abbey started working at the Sheriff’s Office, she was partnered with Randall Watkins for training.  Some time after her training was completed; Mr. Watkins expressed concern that Ms. Abbey was seldom available.

Detective Joe Delgado was called to the stand to discuss his interviews with witnesses.  He interviewed Carlos Rivas who lived at 1708ADonald St.  Mr. Rivas indicated that Rita didn’t live there, but she would come and stay for a few days, then leave for several days.

The person living in unit B indicated to the detective that she heard the argument between Kari Abbey and Rita Elias and then saw Abbey go to her car and retrieve “a holster with a gun in it”.  She also said she heard Rita say that she was going to get her gun.  While Rita was still in unit A, this witness said Kari Abbey returned to unit B, walking along the front of it, until she could look in the window of unit A and see what Rita was doing.  The witness yelled at Kari Abbey’s children to “stay down”. 

Lt. David Lundgren of Hayward Police Department was called to the stand to testify about a bullet-proof vest found at the Abbey residence.  He indicated that Abbey’s husband (a retiredHaywardpolice officer) would have no reason to have that vest in his possession.  Lt. Lundgren testified that he was the officer that received Mr. Taylor’s equipment when he retired.  He inventoried and photographed the equipment, but said that when he contacted HPD’s records department for the information, they indicated the records have been lost. 

The preliminary hearings will continue on Monday at 1:30.

Kari Abbey Preliminary Hearing Day Two Part Two

By Emerson Drake

The District Attorney’s Chief Investigator on the Kari Abbey case, Mike Hermosa is still on the stand and starts discussing the rental property onOlympia St.where Nora Martinez and Javier Arreygue have been after Jose Flores for some time asking him to rid the home of the rat and cockroach infestation.  They also complain about the homes lack of window screens.  This has been an ongoing issue and they have withheld rent in order to motivate the landlord which they believe isFlores.  Hermosa points out itsFloreswriting on the rental application. The renters smell gas and call PG&E who shut off the gas line until the leak on the house side is repaired.


D.A. Investigator Mark Smith returns to the stand after teaching class that morning. The discussion goes back to a co-worker of Kari Abbey’s, Pat Hanuula, and Abby’s early morning trips to Starbucks.  Smith states Hanuula told him that Abbey used this time to study for her real estate license course. Rains countered she was doing paperwork for her rental property.


The topic switches to the police search of the house where the “log book” concerning the  marijuana growing operation was found.  James Abbey told Mark Smith that the log didn’t track marijuana that was sold but the cost of growing it and that the grow was all his.


Kari Abbey told Smith that the grow room was her fathers not hers. Already mentioned was the fact one of Kari Abbey’s deputy uniforms was in a closet off of the grow room.


Jose Flores told Smith and Hermosa he and Kari had gone to 1708A Donald the week before the shooting in an attempt to collect the rent. Charles Rivas,  a tenant was there but Rita wasn’t and Flores and Abbey were told they would have the money next week.


Smith noted that Kari Abbey had a for rent sign in her work car (Scion). 


Back to Mike Hermosa: Hermosa had asked questions to see if the Sheriff’s Office was aware of Abbeys managing the rentals, which they were. Three were owned by James Abbey, nine co-owned by Kari and Bennie, one by Bennie himself, and a few by a bay area company (PLM) and the rest by anotherModestocouple.


Hermosa detailed several different addresses used by Rita during the summer on 2010 along with using a variety of sources for getting that information.


In the affidavit for the search warrant dated 3/24/11, support for a violation of penal code 602.5 and 418 and 602.5, in particular supporting the conspiracy charge, conspiring involves having no rental agreement to make the eviction process easier if it keeps the electricity in Abbey’s name. 


A discussion ensues regarding the altercation onSanta Cruz.  Kari and Bennie had told the MPD officer Bennie had hit Victor with an open hand according to the MPD report. But later Bernie acknowledges he hit Victor with his fist. Apparently James Abbey had taken a rental down payment and security deposit but refused to give the tenants a rental agreement to take to MID to get the electricity turned on because of a former debt. The renters created a fake renter agreement to get the power turned on, but MID checked with Abbey and then refused to.


Defense attorney Rains then produced a lengthy series of rental agreements which all showed the lessee was responsible for the electricity. All of these rental agreements name Kari Abbey as the property manager. But during cross D.A. Harris was able to point out these properties were unknown to the prosecution and were owned by someone else. 


These properties stretched from Ripon throughModestoand added to Abbey’s already heavy workload. They also highlighted the fact these other owners all used rental agreements and Abby many times didn’t.


James Abbey had made a series of personal notes where he detailed going into properties that were occupied without obtaining permission.


It’s also pointed out how James Abbey lied to officers on the night of the shooting, 9/24/10, by not mentioning Jose Flores having been at 1708A Donald and not knowing who the green truck belonged to (Flores) that witnesses said was in the driveway.


Former S.O. Sergeant and now Deputy Coroner Seymore tells the court how he was Abbeys supervisor from 3/09 thru 1/31/11.  He proudly relates he’s considered anal by his subordinates regarding keeping track of their whereabouts and how they keep him informed about everything they do.


He details how Kari’s schedule was 4 ten hour days and that she would talk with him when she needed to use flex time which by his estimation was about twice a week.  Sgt, Seymore suggested Abbey kept him well informed with her schedule and aware of what she was doing.


D.A. Harris asks if the S.O. has a policy that requires deputies to inform their supervisors regarding “official contact” with another police jurisdiction.  He said they did.  Harris then asked him if Abbey had reported the contact with the MPD regarding the tenant’s complaints along with the fight between Bennie and Victor.  Sgt. Seymore said no she didn’t.  Harris then said, “apparently she doesn’t tell you everything then does she.”  Sgt. Seymore said “I guess not.”



Kari Abbey Preliminary Exam, Day Two – Part One

By Emerson Drake


We ended day one with Mark Smith on the stand and had been made aware Mr. Smith had a prior teaching commitment and wasn’t going to be available to start today’s hearing. He will rejoin us during the proceedings on day two.

As an aside it is challenging to remember at Prelim’s as they’re referred to, the questioning, unlike at trial, is not sequential. Witnesses are asked questions in their particular area of the investigation and as a result the focus tends to shift dramatically.

Day two begins with D.A. Investigator Mike Hermosa on the stand. He states he has 32 years of experience in law enforcement and has been the District Attorney’s lead investigator on this case,

Investigator Mike Hermosa is asked if he had any discussion with James Abbey as to why he was at the apartment at 1708A Donald on September 24, 2010.  He said when he asked James Abbey about that, his response was “we went to collect the rent and if they didn’t pay we were going to evict them.”

It was then established that Hermosa was aware of 19 properties Kari Abbey managed, duplexes counting as two.

The discussion then revolved around if Rita Elias actually resided at the Donald address. Hermosa had interviewed Robert Quaves <sp> Rita Elias’ former significant other and father of two of her children.  Mr Quaves stated he had taken their children to the Donald address on at least 10 occasions to see their mother. On day one there was testimony by Sheriff’s Deputy Vince Hooper stating he had recovered an envelope from the vicinity of where Kari Abbey had thrown Elias’ purse that had the 1708A address on it from the Probation Dept., all of which suggests Ms. Abbey had been residing at the home.

Investigator Hermosa described two incidents pertaining to a home on South Santa Cruz where Kari Abbey and her husband Bennie Taylor had attempted to collect some past due rent .Victor Quintana, the tenan, had been outside talking with Ms. Abbey and after some time went inside to quiet his dog. When he started to come back outside as he was closing the door Bennie Taylor hit him and knocked him out.  The police were called and when they arrived the officers apparently knew Ms. Abbey and hugged her and greeted Bennie Taylor with a handshake.

After listening to Victor Quintana’s complaint evidenced by a swollen jaw and missing tooth the officer did nothing.  Then Quintana told the officer he wanted to make a citizens arrest and requested the officer to takeTaylorinto custody.  The officer refused saying it was mutual combat and dismissed Quintana’s further complaints.

Abbey and Taylor came to theSanta Cruzhome on another date after dark but couldn’t get anyone to answer the door.  Taylor went around the house into the side and back yard demanding Quintana come out side,  Taylor allegedly yelled “ why don’t you grow some balls and come outside” Thru the door Abbey yelled and insisted Quintana move some of his belongings from the common area behind the home. Quintana refused.

Kari Abbey then went around the back and started throwing Quintana’s belonging around.  Quintana called the police.  When they arrived the first officer on the scene said he knew Ms. Abbey and after listening to the problem insisted Quintana come out and move his stored items as she had demanded.

Investigator Hermosa told the court that considering his 32 years experience as a police officer, the MPD officer was wrong and never should have made Quintana move his belongings.

On 12/2/10 Kari Abbey, Bennie Taylor and James Robert “Bob” Abbey went to the house rented by Mark Moore and Marian <sp> Martinelle, to collect back rent. Mr. Abbey had shut the power off to the home and Kari and Bennie went around to the back and entered, unannounced, through a glass slider.  Kari started yelling at the residents to leave, Bob Abbey told the two present that Bennie Taylor was a police detective like Kari and insisted they leave.  At this point Bennie Taylor picked up a log by the fireplace and threatened them.  The MPD was called but again the responding officer knew Kari Abbey and nothing was done.

D.A. Dave Harris was establishing a pattern of the Abbeys shutting off the utilities and physical threats to get tenants to move out without using the legal eviction process in homes owned by the Abbeys and Bennie Taylor.


See Day Two Part Two for the rest of the day’s events.






Kari Abbey Preliminary Exam Hearings – Day One

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.

America’s Toughest Sheriff Fails To Protect Children

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office has been discovered to have failed to investigate more than 400 sex crimes reported during a three year period.  In El Mirage alone, where Sheriff Arpaio’s office was providing contract services, there were 32 reported child molestations where law enforcement failed to investigate.  The suspects were known in all but six cases.
Sheriff Arpaio has described himself as America’s Toughest Sheriff and is a hero to many people because of his tough stance on illegal immigration.  Interestingly, most of the victims of these sex crimes were children of illegal immigrants.  I guess in his mind, if your parents are illegal, who cares if you are being sexually abused….



Should Women Be Allowed To Drive In Saudi Arabia?

A report has been given to the all male Shura Council in Saudia Arabia, which advises the monarchy.  The report claims that allowing women to drive will destroy the country’s tradition of virgin brides.  Mind you, only women are required to be virgins at the time they are wed, not the men.  Apparently driving leads to promiscuity, but only if the drivers are female.
King Abdullah has recently given women the right to vote in 2015.   But unless a male relative is willing to drive them to the polls, this “right” is in name only.  This is just one more way for a patriarchal society to control its “uppity” women.  You know the type – women who have brains and opinions.


Why We Need To Stand Up For Women Everywhere

A young woman in Afghanistan was raped by a male relative.  Because she “had sex outside of marriage”, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.  She will be granted early release if she agrees to marry her rapist.  Most of the women jailed in Afghanistan are there because of “moral crimes”, such as sex outside of marriage (in many cases they were raped) and running away from their husbands.  It is not a crime to rape a woman in Afghanistan, but she becomes a criminal if she is raped.  Women in Afghanistan are not able to stand up for themselves, because they are imprisoned or killed when they do.  We have to stand up for them.


Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got



A very intelligent, articulate, church-going, family-loving young man.  Is that so terrible?

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