Ceres brothers claiming harassment by law enforcement take protest to DA’s office

03/12/2014 5:40 PM

03/12/2014 11:57 PM

Two brothers whose homes and businesses were searched in connection with the homicide of a Turlock man were joined by about 20 of their family and friends in front of the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office Wednesday to protest what they say is ongoing harassment by law enforcement.

Baljit and Daljit Athwal’s Ceres homes and Turlock Pop-N-Cork Liquors stores were searched March 3. Computers, iPads and money were seized from their homes but the brothers are most concerned about the damage done to their store – $30,000 worth, according to Baljit Athwal.

The searches were among several since late February that law enforcement will only say is related to an ongoing homicide investigation.

The brothers say the investigation centers around the killing of Korey Kauffman, a Turlock man who went missing two years ago. His body was found by hunters in an isolated area of Mariposa County in August.

Robert Lee Woody, 38, was arrested last weekend and pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday on a charge of murdering Kauffman, according to court documents. Baljit Athwal said he was friends with Woody for 10 years but cut ties with him about seven months ago when he relapsed from a drug addiction.

Three co-conspirators, who are listed only as B, C and D, are included in the criminal complaint against Woody.

The brothers said this is the second time their homes and businesses have been searched in connection with Kauffman’s death.

“(Investigators) don’t have anything,” said Daljit Athwal. “If they have anything then I’d be in jail.”

Holding a sign that read “False Arrest,” Daljit Athwal said during the most recent search he was handcuffed and taken to the DA’s office for questioning. He was again asked if he knew Kauffman but this time was hooked up to a lie detector device.

He said, “I don’t know his name. I’ve never seen this kid. (Investigators said) ‘somebody tell us he comes in the store every day.’ If he came in the store, then I know (him but) I have never seen this kid before.”

Daljit Athwal said the ongoing focus on him and his brother, including questioning by investigators of their neighbors and customers, has amounted to harassment.

They want their belongings returned and the damage to their store repaired. They said detectives tore out their security cameras and alarm system and took all their guns so they have no way of protecting themselves at their stores.

Baljit Athwal said he tried to file a complaint with Turlock police on Monday but was told to contact the Sheriff’s Department. The person with whom they spoke at the Sheriff’s Department told them to file their complaint with the District Attorney’s Office, he said.

Representatives from each of the agencies said no complaints have been filed. Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said she could not say whether the brothers attempted to file the complaint and were referred somewhere else.

A task force of investigators from the Modesto, Turlock and Ceres police departments, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, the California Department of Corrections and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office is investigating Kauffman’s killing.

The Athwal brothers say they want justice for Kauffman and for themselves. They are seeking intervention from the FBI to achieve their goals.

The brothers first protested in front of the Turlock Police Department on Saturday before Wednesday’s protest in front of the DA’s office. They vow to continue protesting until they get some type of response from one of the agencies, their property is returned and the damages repaired.

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