Witness says another man confessed to Kauffman killing

John Edwin Field on Tuesday testified that Michael Cooley confessed to killing Korey Kauffman, who disappeared in late March 2012 and was found dead in a remote area of Mariposa County.

“He did say he killed Korey,” Field said of Cooley. “We were high walking down the street, joking around.”

Field said he and Cooley were high on methamphetamine and smoking marijuana during that conversation. He also testified that Cooley claimed to have beaten up Kauffman. He later said Cooley didn’t explain how Kauffman was killed. Cooley is considered a witness in the case, and has not been charged with any crime in connection with Kauffman’s death.

Field said Cooley was laughing when he said he killed Kauffman, so Field didn’t take it seriously at the time. “When you’re high, you don’t pay attention to stuff like that,” he said in court.

Field, who was subpoenaed to testify by the defense, had trouble remembering what he told a police detective in a December 2014 interview. He initially said he couldn’t remember Cooley ever confessing to Kauffman’s murder.

Field suffered a stroke in 2004, along with a milder stroke later when he was incarcerated. “I take my medicine, and I get foggy,” the witness said about his memory.

Field’s testimony is part of a preliminary hearing for Modesto attorney Frank Carson and five others charged in Kauffman’s slaying. Authorities believe Carson recruited a group to send a violent message to thieves stealing antiques and scrap metal from Carson’s Turlock property, which led to Kauffman’s death.

At one point, Field apparently became overwhelmed with the stress of testifying. He returned from a break and entered the courtroom fighting back tears. He had made it clear to the judge that he just wanted to finish his testimony and go home.

He returned to the witness stand Tuesday afternoon. Field became increasingly frustrated, resulting in a series of outbursts from the witness stand. He directed his frustration at the prosecutor. “I don’t like courts, and I don’t like you. It’s like I’m the one who’s on trial here,” Field said.

Field testified that he’s been told that Cooley is part of a Turlock secret society of high-powered white people who “take care of business.” He said he’s been told that Cooley’s membership in a notorious biker gang has something to do with that society.

Field worked at a recycling center, where he met Kauffman and Cooley. When asked whether he and Kauffman would commit burglaries together, Field said he wouldn’t answer that because it could incriminate him.

On three different occasions, Cooley said he killed Kauffman, Field testified. He said Cooley was tired of Kauffman stealing items and bringing them back to Cooley’s home, inviting police attention.

The prosecution said Kauffman was last seen alive March 30, 2012, leaving Cooley’s Turlock home and heading to Carson’s property to steal irrigation pipes. Cooley’s Lander Avenue home and Carson’s Ninth Street property were separated by a fence.

The third time Cooley confessed to killing Kauffman, Field said, Cooley brandished a knife and threatened Field. He testified that he ran from Cooley that day, because he was afraid for his life.

“Mike Cooley is a very dangerous man, you don’t understand,” Field said.

He also said he never saw Cooley and Kauffman fighting, and that Kauffman was never mean to Field. He said, “I miss Korey.”

Rosalio Ahumada: 209-578-2394, @ModBeeCourts