A woman on Tuesday testified that she overheard Korey Kauffman say he was heading to Frank Carson’s property on the night he disappeared. The 26-year-old man’s remains were found 18 months later in a remote area of Mariposa County.
“All I know is he said he was going back there,” Linda Burns said on the witness stand about Kauffman heading to Carson’s property. “He didn’t say what he was going to do.”
The prosecution claims Kauffman was shot to death after he was caught trespassing on Carson’s 5-acre property in Turlock.
Burns’ testimony was part of a preliminary hearing for Carson and five others charged in Kauffman’s death. The prominent Modesto defense attorney is accused of recruiting a group of people to send a violent message to thieves repeatedly stealing antiques and scrap metal from his property.
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Questions from defense attorneys challenged Burns’ credibility. She denied using drugs in late March 2012, the last time she saw Kauffman. Burns also denied she ever saw her brother, Mike Cooley, using drugs in front of her. She was living at her brother’s home at that time.
She said she had been to Irwin City Antiques of Hilmar twice to sell antique glass and motor-oil bottles her brother gave to her. Burns denied she ever took antiques from Carson’s property. According to filed court documents, Carson discovered the owner of the Hilmar antiques store had bought from an unknown man auto manual service books from the 1940s, which were stolen from Carson’s property.
Burns also testified that she saw several homeless people break into Carson’s property using a hole in a fence that separated Cooley’s home on Lander Avenue and Carson’s property on Ninth Street. The attorney’s property housed extensive piles of scrap metal, classic cars and antiques.
She said her brother sometimes was there when others would trespass onto Carson’s property, but there was no indication she or her brother ever called police.
“He would tell them ‘No,’ at times,” Burns said about her brother’s reaction to those breaking into Carson’s property. “At times, he said, ‘What can I do?’ ”
Burns testified she never saw Kauffman or her brothers, Mike and Rick Cooley, using the hole in the fence to trespass onto Carson’s property. Her brothers were working at a recycling center at the time.
She said she never saw anyone carrying antiques as they came back from Carson’s property, only clothing and backpacks. Burns has described Carson coming to her brother’s home a few times to confront him about the repeated burglaries.
Burns testified that Carson opened the door to her unlocked station wagon parked on Lander Avenue and searched the vehicle for stolen items, but the attorney didn’t search other vehicles. She said she didn’t remember Carson claiming her station wagon was spotted at the Hilmar antiques store.
“He was mad. ... Freaking mad is what he was,” Burns said about Carson during those confrontations months before Kauffman went missing.
She said Kauffman was still inside her brother’s home when she and others in Cooley’s backyard used binoculars to spot two men on Carson’s property. Burns testified that the two men split up, heading in opposite directions along the fence line, and it looked like they were going to hide somewhere. She said the two men were white and had blonde hair. She didn’t see the two men again.
Burns left her brother’s home, and she said she didn’t know whether Kauffman had already left as well.
Testimony in the hearing is expected to continue Wednesday in Stanislaus Superior Court.