An audio recording of investigators questioning Rick Cooley in May 2012 was played in court Thursday in a preliminary hearing for Frank Carson and five others charged in Korey Kauffman’s death. Defense attorneys pointed to differences between Cooley’s statements to the investigators then and his testimony.
Cooley has testified that he saw Kauffman on March 30, 2012, looking over a fence into Carson’s 5-acre property in Turlock, saying he was going over there to get some irrigation pipes. Kauffman left that night and was never seen alive again. His remains were found 18 months later in Mariposa County.
The witness says he didn’t initially tell investigators about the pipes or Kauffman’s intentions, and he didn’t know why he withheld that information. In the recording, the investigators ask Cooley if he saw some aluminum pipes on Carson’s property. Cooley said he didn’t.
Carson, a 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.
Cooley was living with his brother Mike Cooley for a few weeks in late March 2012. Rick Cooley was staying in a shed behind his brother’s home along Lander Avenue. A cyclone fence separated the Cooley home and Carson’s expansive property on Ninth Street. The attorney used the property to store numerous classic cars, old household appliances, piles of scrap metal and antiques.
In the recording, Rick Cooley told investigators that he noticed someone cross the fence line into Carson’s property late that night, and that it might have been Kauffman. In his previous testimony, Rick Cooley said Kauffman left the Cooley home to go “recycling” that night, and he never saw him again.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing is expected to continue for at least another few weeks. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for the defendants to stand trial.