Brothers protest property searches by Turlock police

Bee Staff ReportsMarch 8, 2014 

— Brothers Baljit Singh and Daljit Singh Athwal protested their treatment by local law enforcement in front of the Turlock Police Department on Saturday. About a dozen friends joined the generally silent sidewalk vigil, carrying signs asking for justice and FBI intervention.

Property owned by the brothers was searched earlier this month in a seven-month, five-agency investigation into the death of a Turlock man after his disappearance two years ago that resulted in the arrest of one man. Work on the case continues and few details have been made public.

Robert Lee Woody, 38, was arrested last weekend and pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday on a charge of murdering Korey Kauffman, according to court documents. Three co-conspirators, who are listed only as B, C and D, are included in the criminal complaint against Woody.

A home on East Avenue in Turlock, listed as Woody’s last known address in an arrest warrant, was one of at least six searches relating to the case.

The subject of three of the searches, Baljit Singh Athwal, said last week that investigators told him his two Turlock businesses and Ceres home were searched Monday as part of the investigation into Kauffman’s death. He said this is the second time in two years that his homes and businesses were searched.

Athwal said police destroyed his stores by breaking the doors, cutting wires to his lottery machine and surveillance cameras, and seizing guns he uses for protection. At his home on Wild Oak Drive, they took computers, cellphones and iPads, he said. Athwal said the officers’ weapons scared his three young children and the 5-year-old son of his brother, Daljit Athwal, whose nearby home on Southern Oak Drive also was searched.

Daljit Athwal said Saturday that Turlock police refused to take his information. “We tried to make a report. They won’t take the report,” he said. “Nobody will listen to us.”

They called Friday and indicated they would be protesting, said Turlock police Lt. Ron Reid.

“They have filed no complaints,” he said. The small group arrived at 11:20 a.m. and left at 2 p.m., he said.

Kauffman’s body was discovered by hunters in an isolated area of Mariposa County in August.

Baljit Athwal said he never knew Kauffman and doesn’t know why investigators continue to focus on him and his brother, with whom he co-owns two Pop-n-Cork Liquors stores. Baljit Athwal said he has known Woody for about 10 years. The Pop-n-Cork on East Avenue is steps from Woody’s house.

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