A detective testified about text messages Tuesday morning as a preliminary hearing began for six defendants charged in the death of Turlock resident Korey Kauffman.
Initially, the preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin this week for eight defendants charged in the murder case. But Barbara Zuniga, a visiting judge from Contra Costa County assigned to the case, granted a request to postpone the hearing for two of the defendants, California Highway Patrol Officers Eduardo Quintanar Jr. and Scott J. McFarlane.
The officers, who are on administrative leave, are accused of helping the other defendants elude investigators trying to gather evidence in the case. Quintanar and McFarlane are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and being accessories in Kauffman’s death.
Frank Carson is accused of having been the ringleader in a murder conspiracy. Authorities claim Carson, a prominent Modesto defense attorney, recruited a group of people to send a violent message to those stealing antiques and scrap metal from his 5-acre Turlock property. Carson is charged with murder, conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury.
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Carson and three other defendants in the case remain in custody. The judge has allowed them to appear in court in their own clothing. Typically in Stanislaus County, defendants in custody appear for their preliminary hearings in jail inmate jumpsuits. The judge has also ordered that in-custody defendants will not be shackled in the courtroom for any proceedings in this case.
The prosecution on Tuesday introduced testimony from Ceres police Detective Arthur Hively, a trained forensic software analyst, who discovered text messages between Georgia DeFilippo, Carson’s wife, and her daughter, Christina Anne DeFilippo. The attorney’s wife is charged with murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and her daughter is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and being an accessory.
Robert Forkner, Christina DeFilippo’s attorney, objected to the text messages. He told the judge the messages go as far back as 2008, four years before Kauffman’s death. He argued that the messages have nothing to do with this case.
Percy Martinez, Carson’s attorney, argued that the messages are being mischaracterized by the prosecution.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira told the judge that the messages show the defendants’ increasing frustration over the thefts and the escalating efforts to capture thieves, with Carson armed with a gun, waiting on the property for someone to break in. The prosecutor argued that Carson and his wife were instructing Christina DeFilippo to call them if she saw a burglar on the property, not police.
Hively, on the witness stand, recited the text messages he found on a laptop belonging to Christina DeFilippo. The messages were from her phone and loaded onto an iPhone backup file on the laptop.
The efforts to thwart thieves in February 2010 begin with Georgia DeFilippo asking her daughter to peek outside a back window to look for any would-be thieves. Her daughter lived in a house on the property; she and her husband lived at another location.
One message from Georgia DeFilippo informs her daughter that Carson will be on the property. The attorney’s wife wrote, “Frank’s flipping out. He’ll be packing a gun, he won’t bother you.”
In another message, she asks her daughter to put on dark clothing and go outside and search the property for thieves at night. She tells her daughter not to confront anyone. “Be careful and quiet,” she wrote to her daughter. Christina DeFilippo later replied to her mother, “I’m a sitting duck out there.”
A series of messages in May 2011 indicate that Carson had bought a motion detector for the property. In October 2011, Georgia DeFilippo wrote asking her daughter to call her or her husband if the motion detector started chirping a lot, detecting someone on the property.
According to the messages recited in court, her daughter grew increasingly frustrated with the constant need for vigilance on the property, including times when she called her mother and Carson but nobody answered. The frustration created some problems between the mother and daughter, the messages seem to suggest.
One of the messages indicates that Christina DeFilippo spotted Carson’s vehicle on the property, but there was no sign of her stepfather. Her mother responded, “He stays and watches for quite some time; he has a lot of patience.”
Two Turlock police officers also testified about interactions they had with Carson in which he discussed thefts on his property.
In February 2011, Officer Queray McMihelk was dispatched to 1364 Lander Ave. for a disturbance. He said Carson and Georgia DeFilippo were there and Carson expressed that the people who lived there stole from him.
According to the arrest affidavit, Kauffman’s friend Mike Cooley lived at the Lander Avenue property, which is adjacent to Carson’s property and shares a fence. Investigators say Carson believed Cooley was stealing from him and that it was from Cooley’s home that Kauffman left the night of his disappearance. Investigators believe he was heading to Carson’s property to steal irrigation pipes.
In January 2012, Officer Mike Briggs was called to a dirt lot just south of Cooley’s home at Lander and Montana avenues. Briggs testified that a business owner in the area called police to report a suspicious person in the lot.
Briggs said he found Carson sitting in his truck in a “relaxed” manner. Briggs testified that Carson told him he was keeping an eye on his property because he’d had issues with repeated thefts. Briggs said he didn’t think Carson’s property was visible from the dirt lot but Cooley’s was.
The preliminary hearing will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.