Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Kari Abbey”

Thursday’s Debate for Sheriff and District Attorney

By EOM Contributorcountymontage

Last night (April 24th) was the first public debate between the candidates for Sheriff (incumbent Adam Christiansen and Deputy Tom Letras) and District Attorney (incumbent Birgit Fladagher and attorney Frank Carson).  I attended the debate as did approximately 80 other people.  First, it was nice to see that the sheriff did not wear his uniform while campaigning, as he was reprimanded by the Civil Grand Jury four years ago for violating California Government Code 3206.  This reprimand came as a result of a citizen filing a complaint.

The candidates were each allowed an opening statement, then responded to questions from the audience and ended with a closing statement.  The debate was moderated by Steve Madison (Chamber of Commerce and head of StanCo which oversees the county’s investments in housing) and Sandra Lucas, a Republican’s Democrat.

The first question asked by the audience was “the Sheriff’s Department has been hit with many lawsuits over the last several years.  What would each of you do to prevent future lawsuits?”

Sheriff Christianson claimed to have “won all the lawsuits.”   Deputy Letras contradicted this by saying that the Sheriff had just lied to the audience.  He believes there is a difference between winning a lawsuit in court and settling to avoid going to court.  He does  not consider it a “win” when the county pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.

Deputy Letras believes that open communication with employees can both improve morale and lesson the likelihood of lawsuits (50% of the lawsuits have been filed by employees).  He believes the sheriff needs to have an open door policy and be willing to meet with and discuss employee concerns and that by doing so problems can be solved before they become legal issues.  He indicated that the sheriff does not have good relationships with his subordinates and that is what leads to lawsuits and a high turnover in the department.

Sheriff Christiansen claims to have an open door policy and blames the rash of lawsuits on the fact that we live in a litigious world.  He believes that it doesn’t matter who the sheriff is, lawsuits will be filed.  He said that some of the employee lawsuits were “frivolous” and were filed because he was attempting to make employees be accountable.

The lawsuits have ranged from sexual harassment (a new female employee being pressured to attend an after work party at a strip club in order to “bond” with her co-workers), to racial prejudice, discrimination against injured workers, deputy brutality and the deaths of several people in custody.

Forty-one suits have been filed.  The county pays the first $250,000 in expenses (which comes to $10,250,000) settlements and expenses after that amount are covered by insurance.  The county maintains a general liability fund to cover the the deductibles, but administrators of the fund had to triple the amount during Sheriff Christiansen’s tenure.

One heart-breaking lawsuit was filed by the family of Craig Prescott, a former deputy himself.  Mr. Prescott was forced to resign and as a result began to suffer serious stress and anxiety to the point of becoming mentally unstable.  His family phoned the sheriff’s department when they became afraid for Craig’s safety, believing that his former co-workers would be able to help him.  He was placed in a cell and because a person in the next cell didn’t like the noise Craig was making, a decision was made to transfer him to a safety cell.  In order to transfer him (because he was mentally unstable), he was Tasered and shot with bean bag guns.  He was dragged into a safety cell at which time he was face-down, unconscious,  and deputies sat on him for several minutes, suffocating him.

Sheriff Christiansen defended the actions of his deputies and made every effort to delay an investigation.  After the lawsuit was filed, a video tape was released to the family’s attorney.  That video tape did not match the written description of the tape that had been viewed by the Assistant D.A.   The tape had been altered so parts described by the Assistant D.A. were missing.

Another question asked of all four candidates was “do you believe arresting and prosecuting drug offenders will reduce the drug problem, particularly where marijuana is concerned?”

D.A. Birgit Fladager expressed the opinion that we have to arrest them to help them hit bottom so they can then begin to recover.  She said that being in prison is the bottom and the rehabilitation can then start.  Ms. Fladager refers to marijuana as a “gateway” drug, believes it is addicting and leads to increased crime.

Attorney Frank Carson opined that we need more early education in the schools and more intervention.  He also said that it was a waste of time and resources to prosecute someone for growing a few plants in their back yard.

Sheriff Christiansen hammered on the point that even though California has legalized medical marijuana, it is still a federal offense and people should be arrested and prosecuted.

Deputy Letras believes that this issue will be settled by the voters in the near future and it’s best not to waste time and resources (and jail space) prosecuting people who smoke marijuana in their homes.

Questions were asked about the Sheriff’s Department budget and vacancies.  During the last two years, while complaining about vacancies (due to budget cuts) and fewer deputies on the street, the department has come in $1,000,000 under budget.  Sheriff Christiansen indicated that there is a lack of qualified applicants.  Deputy Letras questions why there is such a lack of applicants, noting that only 1% of applicants ever go very far into the application process.  This is true even for clerical positions.  He agrees that law enforcement needs to be held to a higher standard, but wonders if the standard Sheriff Christiansen has set is eliminating qualified applicants who would make very good employees and is also the reason there is a lack of diversity in the department.

Closing statements by the four candidates re-hashed what had been said in answering the questions, except that attorney Frank Carson said it was important to stop the 26,000 wiretaps put in place by D.A. Birgit Fladager (at a cost of $300,000) which have resulted in zero convictions.

In addition to lawsuits, there is an incident involving Sheriff’s Deputy Kari Abby which resulted in the death of Rita Elias.

To read more about the Sheriff’s Department

To read about Deputy Kari Abby



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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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