Witness in Kauffman murder case doesn’t expect help with drug arrest for testifying

Under cross-examination Thursday, a witness in the preliminary hearing for Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson and five other defendants said she has a pending case against her on possession of methamphetamine.

Eula Keyes, who saw Korey Kauffman on the night before he disappeared, said she did not expect to receive any legal advantage for her testimony. The Turlock resident said she was arrested about two years ago and has made numerous court appearances. Keyes said she faced a single count of possessing meth and attributed the delays to attorney conflicts.

Keyes testified Wednesday that she witnessed incidents in which Carson confronted her and her boyfriend, Mike Cooley, about stealing items from his property in Turlock. Carson and five others are charged in the disappearance and killing of Kauffman.

Prosecutors charge that Kauffman disappeared on March 30, 2012, after he tried to steal irrigation pipes from Carson’s property, which shared a backyard fence with the home where Keys and Cooley lived on Lander Avenue. Kauffman’s body was found in 2013 in a remote area of Mariposa County.

Keyes was cross-examined Thursday by multiple attorneys representing the accused. They peppered her with questions that tested her memory of events and meetings with law enforcement investigators two and three years ago.

At the close of Thursday’s hearing, defense attorney Martha Carlton-Magana said that before the hearing resumes Friday, she wanted details on any promises made by prosecutors to people called to testify in the murder case. When Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira asked for specific names, Carlton-Magana called out the names of numerous witnesses.

Carlton-Magana, who is representing defendant Baljit Athwal, is expected to continue with questions for Keyes on Friday.

Keyes acknowledged Thursday that during questioning from Cooley’s parole officer after Kauffman’s body was found, she and Cooley learned they were possible suspects. Keyes said they took lie-detector tests.

Defense attorney Percy Martinez asked about a February 2013 interview in which Keyes and her son spoke with District Attorney investigator Kirk Bunch. During that interview, Keyes’ son is reported to have said that Cooley told them the same thing that happened to Kauffman would happen to them. “But Mike would not hurt a fly,” Keyes said.

Keyes later said she still maintains a relationship with Cooley, which has its ups and downs.

Keyes said her memory of some events three years ago was hazy. But using her hands, she was able to describe a pile of irrigation pipes on Carson’s property that were 3 to 4 inches in diameter. She testified that after Kauffman disappeared, she saw that some of the pipes had been taken.

Rick Cooley has testified that on March 30, 2012, Kauffman said he was going to steal the pipes.

Keyes testified that Kauffman, a friend who often had dinner at their home, arrived at about 9 p.m. that night on his bicycle pulling a dolly that she owned. Kauffman was at the home with herself, Mike Cooley and Rick Cooley. Kauffman left around 10:30 p.m., saying he was going around the corner, and they never saw him again, she testified.

The next morning, Kauffman’s bicycle with flat tires was in a different spot next to the house, with a wrench lying next to it. Two days later, Keyes called a Turlock police officer to relate her concerns that Kauffman was missing, because she had expected him to return before long, she testified.

Defense Attorney Timothy Rien, representing former CHP officer Walter Wells, challenged her testimony, asking if in fact Mike Cooley had left with Kauffman that night.

Keyes said “no.”

She didn’t seem intimidated when Rien asked, in a series of questions, if she had killed Kauffman, was present when he was killed or had knowledge that his body had been moved.

“We had nothing to do with Korey missing,” Keyes said.

During a discussion with attorneys at the close of the hearing, Judge Barbara Zuniga said she had learned the court proceedings, held in the former U.S. bankruptcy court on 12th Street, were being taped on a video recording system without her permission. Zuniga said she intended to talk with Superior Court officials about stopping the taping.

Martinez said he wanted a copy of the video because of a complaint he was considering. Ferreira explained to Zuniga that hearings at the downtown courthouse were routinely recorded on video for security purposes. Ferreira suggested that Zuniga allow the taping because it offers protection against frivolous complaints about courtroom conduct.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321