Feb 7, 2015

"I didn't know I was going to Murder Mountain"; initially Brown denied shooting Decker; says Sheriff deputies saved his life; "I was scared as fuck"

The jury got to see two interviews conducted with Matthew Brown, the murder suspect in the murder of Neil Decker. The first one was done when he was taken into custody on July 23, 2014, five days after the incident. The second one was 24 hours later.

Brown has a full head of hair now but in that interview he is dressed in orange and has a shaved head like his booking photo. Sgt. Diana Freese and Detective Sam Williams interviewed him and it starts with them offering him food, which he scarfs down and thanks them profusely a few times. He had been on the run, hiding in the woods before he was taken into custody. Most of the questioning is done by Detective Williams.

The detectives started by asking him about Decker's death. Brown responded, "I don't know anything about it, they are trying to set me up, so I've been hiding in the woods." He then told the detective that he did not have anywhere to go when he lived in Southern California and that Scott Johnson, who he called "dad", brought him up here to work on his property but did not pay him. Brown then said that while he was hiding in the woods he walked past Johnson's dead body. "They were going to get me, they were on their way to the cabin, but the Sheriff got there first.Basically, the Sheriff saved my life. I was scared as fuck."

In between eating and telling his story, he referred to Joey Johnson  (Scott Johnson's son) and "Dave." others in their testimony have mentioned  to "red-headed Dave." Brown repeated, "they are trying to say I shot Neil."

Detective Williams asked him, "What makes you think they are trying to set you up?" Brown responded that Decker was stealing money from Johnson. In previous testimony and when law enforcement went up to the property, there was marijuana growing and testimony has been given that Brown had claimed Decker was selling Johnson's property and tools which he, Brown was in charge of keeping an eye on when Johnson would travel.

"So you are saying Neil was robbing Scott?"

Brown continued," The most stressful time of my life" when he lived on Johnson's property and "when they turned on me." He then told detectives he was lost for days, stayed in the woods, then the cabin because his girlfriend's "grandma" would not let him stay at the house.

"I'm all screwed up, I can relax now." indicating that he felt safe in custody.

"I did everything for them and they turned on me for a couple thousand dollars," said Brown. He told the detectives that Johnson owed him $1,500 for the work he did.

"You worked all that time for a couple thousand dollars?" Detective Williams asked Brown.

"Well, they gave me room and board." The detectives asked him how he knew Scott Johnson and Brown said Johnson knew "his mom and her old man."

Then he said, "I thought highly of him (Johnson) but I knew something was wierd." He mentions that when "the girl (his ex Kara) asked him to leave", he thought it was because their relationship was over. "I didn't know I was going to Murder Mountain."

"At the end, I was running from everybody, everybody turned on me ."

When Detective Williams asked him why they turned on him, Brown said, "I was an outsider, I wasn't born and raised there."

"Neil and I had a conflict for a while, that is why they threw my name out there." Brown told the detectives that "Neil had threatened to kill him but Scott talked to him, then all was good." Brown then mentioned the wrestling and pepper-spray incident and that "he whooped Neil's ass" when they wrestled. "Now that I look back, Scott wasn't squelching the problems, he was just covering up the problem. All was good, my dad came back and then I hear I shot Neil."

In this interview, Brown claims that he was with his girlfriend Sarrie Stillwell when someone called her to say Brown had shot Decker and that she said to the person that he was "standing next to her."

He then described how locals chased him and threatened to hurt him so his girlfriend's grandmother would not let him stay at the house, he then fled into the woods and that is when he went to Laura Hall's house but everywhere he went, he was forced to flee because the locals were turning people against him.

"I am used to working and shit; I get up here and people are smoking dope and..." He mentioned the pepper spray and that Decker was upset about the gate and that Decker was "trashing stuff and Scott did  not do anything."

He told the detectives how the Stillwells were good to him and that he helped Sarrie Stillwell "get iff heroin" and that the locals tried to "break them up, they knew she was all I had left."

Detectives then asked him how he heard about Decker's death. Brown said he was tired and had not slept for days. They keep repeating the question and then Brown asked for a lawyer. "How many times are you going to ask me the same question? I am being honest with you. I don't mind answering your questions but don't twist and play games with me. Maybe interview me after I get some rest"

That is where the first interview ends.

Neil Decker died of "a single, shotgun wound to the chest" and "his blood was positive for meth"

Day 4 of the murder trial in which Matthew Brown is charged with murder of Neil Decker continued with testimony from HCSO Sgt. Diana Freese. She had started her testimony on Thursday, February 5, briefly before court adjourned at noon. She resumed her testimony yesterday morning. It was brief again and interrupted because Dr. Mark Super, an out of county forensic pathologist, gave his testimony.

Sgt. Freese had testified about arriving on scene, securing evidence, talking to some witnesses and right before Dr. Super took the stand, DDA Kelly Neel was about to play two interviews where the suspect in Decker's murder Matthew Brown spoke to Sgt. Freese and Detective Sam Williams.

Dr. Super's testified that Decker died of "a single shotgun wound to the chest" and no other injury. The jury saw a photo of Decker's wound which was "on the left chest above the left nipple."

When this photo was shown, Mr. Greg Elvine-Kreiss, who is Brown's attorney turend to Brown in court and asked, "Are you allright?" Brown responded, "yeah"

Dr. Super testified that "the end of the gun at the time the victim was shot was almost straight but slightly upward and to the left."

Toxicology results were done on Decker for controlled substances and "his blood was positive for meth." Dr. Super said measuring how much meth was in the deceased's blood cannot be done accurately. He also said Decker's heart was enlarged.

On cross, Dr. Super said that he could not make any "definitive conclusions about where the shooter or the victim were standing" and when asked by Mr. Elvine-Kreiss if it was possible that the victim could be lunging towards the shooter, Dr. Super said, "it's possible."

Mr. Elvine-Kreiss and Dr. Super went at it about the 1.4 litres of meth found in Decker's blood ad what the levels meant. Mr. Elvine-Kreiss said that was high according to the range on Central Valley Toxicology that did the report, Dr. Super disagreed. He thought this was a medium range. Mr. Elvine-Kreiss tried to question Dr. Super about aggression and meth. Dr. Super deflected Mr. Elvine-Kreiss' questions. He got defensive in his responses. When Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked him, if he had heard of the DSM and "meth psychosis" and Dr. Super said, "I am not a psychologist."

Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked him if he was familiar with the DSM and meth psychosis and Dr. Super said, "it exists." Dr. Super then went on to say tolerance had a lot to do with how a person would react and "lot of illegal drugs were initially developed for medicinal use."

To which Mr. Elvine-Kreiss responded, "So you have an opinion but you have no knowledge about effective levels of meth?"

Dr. Super snapped back," By the nature of my practice, my patients are dead so they do not exihibit psychosis."

"In 10,000 autopsies you have conducted, did people die of meth psychosis," asked Mr. Elvine-Kreiss.

"Yes," said Dr. Super. "But I did not make a diagnosis. I do an autopsy so I make a determination whether meth killed them or not, not if they are psychotic."

In previous testimony, Brown's girlfriend at the time of the alleged shooting said that Brown had done meth earlier that day. All witnesses who knew both testified that all of them regularly did meth.

Feb 5, 2015

Hoopa domestic violence suspect who allegedly shot at wife taken into custody, weapon not recovered yet

On 02-05-2015 at about 9:30 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a report, regarding shots being fired in the direction of the Hoopa High School off Highway 96 Hoopa. Hoopa High School decided to go into lockdown, because of the shots being fired in the direction of the school. When deputies arrived on scene they were assisted by Humboldt County Juvenile Probation Officer, who happened to be in the area.

When deputies arrived on scene they learned the shots originated from a residence located at the intersection of Loop Road and Matilton Cutoff Road, Hoopa. This residence is located about 50 yards from the school. Deputies then contacted a female victim, who stated, she was in a verbal argument this morning with her husband, 33 year old, Brandon Joseph Biondini. The victim stated that during the argument with Biondini, she started to walk away from the residence.

As she was walking away, she heard the sounds of a round being racked into a rifle. The victim said she then started to run. She said she heard (3) three rounds being fired in her direction. The victim escaped without being injured.

Deputies located Biondini driving a truck on Pine Creek Road, Hoopa a short time later and took him into custody without incident. Biondini was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, and domestic violence and for discharging a firearm in a negligent manner. Biondini was transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility in Eureka. Biondini bail was set at $500,000 dollars.

The weapon in this incident has not been recovered and deputies are currently on scene securing the residence for a search warrant.

"He came home and he was really scared; he didn't know what to do; that he just came at him and he had to defend himself"

The witnesses that followed Kara Williams aka Kessler this morning built on the sympathy and corroborated more of the defense's theory in opening arguments in the Matthew Brown case.

The next witness to testify this morning was Laura Hall. She said she was a friend of Scott Johnson and the victim, Neil Decker and she also knew Brown and referred to him as Scott's son. The mention of Johnson's name brought tears to her eyes.

DDA Kelly Neel asked her, "After Neil Decker's death, did you see Matthew Brown?" Hall responded that Brown drove up to her property on his motorcycle and "apologized for killing her dear friend but he did not mention Decker by name. "He asked to use my phone to call his mom. I gave him a hug and felt bad for him even though he had done what he did." While Brown did not tell her that he shot Decker in self-defense, she said "he was a good, vibrant person and on that day, he looked terrible like his booking photo."

Like others before, Hall said she did meth and that Brown used meth.

On cross, Mr. Elvine-Kreiss, Brown's attorney asked her, "You felt Matt was genuinely remorseful about what happened? Hall responded, "Yes." Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked her if Brown had discussed with her about his fear of Decker. "Not so much other than that they did not get along. " She added, "They did intimidation back and forth."

Hall then said, "there were issues of the gate being locked." With more brutal honesty compared to previous witness, she said, "Matt was in charge of keeping riff-raff of Scott's property and some of us were put off (with the gate being locked); Neil took it personally." Until Brown arrived, many of the people who knew Johnson before had free reign coming and going. In previous testimony, it has been stated that Brown felt he was watching out for his "dad", Johnson and felt Decker "was not a true friend."

The quote in the title is from Sarie Stillwell,  the young woman Brown started seeing after Williams.
Williams was 11 years older than Brown, Stillwell is 6 years younger. By her own testimony, Williams said she was not in love with Brown. However, she broke up with Brown after learning he had started seeing Stillwell, something he told her. By by her own testimony, Williams had a relationship of convenience with Brown. Stillwell is younger and more attractive compared to Williams. Both women testified that they think of Brown as a friend but both reveal feelings for him from the actions and words on the stand . Stillwell wore her feelings very openly on her sleeve while testifying.

They had been "seeing each other for a couple of months."

Ms. Neel asked her, "Are you still his girlfriend?"

Stillwell paused and looked over at Brown, "I am still his friend." She looked down and added, "It is all very confusing.

Ms. Neel asked Stillwell, "Do you recall hearing Matthew Brown killed Neil Decker?"

"I heard it from him," said Stillwell. "He came home and he was really scared; he didn't know what to do; that he just came at him and he had to defend himself." This is the first witness that has mentioned that Brown said that the shooting was in self-defense.

There were questions about why Brown drove her car instead of his motorcycle. Stillwell said that the truck Brown drove was not working, she did not know why no motorcycle. She said Brown was asked to come up to Johnson's house, he needed to go and she lent him her car. There were questions by Ms. Neel whether Brown loaded a shotgun or firearm in the car and Stillwell insisted she did not see anything except something similar to a machete or something covered but not a gun.

When Ms. Neel asked her if she contacted law enforcement after Brown told her he had shot Decker, Stillwell responded, "I didn't know what to do; I believed him."

After this Ms. Neel asked her about meth use and again, she said she used meth, so did Brown and that he did meth earlier in the day, which is before he went to Johnson's house that night. In response to questions by Ms. Neel, Stillwell said she did not know anything about where Brown went or where he was prior to his arrest and that he told her about the arguments between Decker and him and the "pepper spray" incident.

When Ms. Neel asked her, "Did Matthew Brown ever express fear to you for his life when he stayed with you?" Stillwell's response was, "Whenever he would go to work. They were trying to kick him off the mountain" but that he kept trying to talk to Johnson about stolen property. In earlier testimony, it has been alleged that Brown was trying to tell Johnson that Decker was selling his tools and stuff, and on the night of the shooting, it was a welder.

Ms. Neel asked Stillwell, "Do you still love him (Brown)?"

Stillwell said, "I do very much, as a friend."

In response to both a question by Ms. Neel and Mr. Elvine-Kreiss, Stillwell said, "I was in a  very bad place and he came into my life and helped me a lot. He was good to me and my family."

"I know some of the things are not to be talked about in the community"

If you have been following the saga of the Rancho Sequoia murder on this blog, in day 3 of the trial for suspect Matthew Brown who is charged with the murder of Neil Decker, testimony continues to lean towards the defense opening arguments. Except for HCSO Sgt. Diana Freese who briefly started her testimony today, and Johanna Hames who testified the last two days, most prosecution witnesses and their testimony so far have helped the defense more than the People.

DDA Kelly Neel has a challenge of witnesses who seem to have amnesia about earlier statements when they are on the stand, who are non-responsive to questions, and who end up painting a sympathetic picture of Brown.

Then there is the issue of Decker's peanut gallery. Since Day 1, there have been two women and one young man in the audience. One woman is not a family member but a friend/community member and the daughter of a witness who testified favorably about Brown today, tends to draw a lot of attention and was the one ejected from the courtroom on the first day. Today, she and the young man glared at me since my posts yesterday about hallway conversations and their chatting with a witness.

Witnesses that are subject to recall should not be talking to others about the case. This was clearly stated by Judge Feeney when all these people were present. Whether any rules have been broken is yet to be determined but perception and the behavior of some Decker supporters and their absence in the courtroom certainly leads to some questions.

One witness, Brown's ex-girlfriend Kara Williams also known as Kessler was taken in privately for a few minutes before the courtroom was opened for the trial today. Witnesses starting today were now seated in a room, away from jury and others in the hallway. A bigger podium which prevents these supporters from making eye contact with the witness testifying was placed in the courtroom today and surprisingly, the young man and the woman  were not in the courtroom after the mid-morning break.

Conflict Counsel's Mr. Greg Elvine-Kreiss, who is Brown's appointed attorney, has asked several witnesses if they have been threatened about testifying or told not to say certain things and they have all said "no."

Today's hearing started off with Scott Johnson's and Neil Decker's friend and Brown's ex-girlfriend Williams ( also known as Kessler)  finishing her testimony.  Mr. Elvine-Kreiss resumed questioning her. She said "everyone had guns", even people who she didn't recognize but came to Johnson's property on and off.

"Are you in fear of answers you are giving?, asked Mr. Elvine-Kreiss.

 "I know some of the things are not to be talked about in the community," Williams responded.

"Has anyone told you not to talk about certain things?"

"No," said Williams.

Mr. Elvine-Kreiss then asked her that when she was talking law enforcement, did the other people tell her to hush. "Who would tell me to hush?" Then there was back and forth where she kept insisiting that no one told her to hush and that no one else was there with law enforcement besides her, until Mr. Elvine_Kreiss showed her the police report and her response. Then he asked her the question again and she just abruptly answered "no."

Ms. Neel's redirect instead of painting Brown in a negative light showed him to be truthful in telling Williams that he was seeing another woman, Sarrie Stillwell, who testified later today. Williams would quickly glance over at Brown in between her testimony and picking up on that, Ms. Neel asked her, "Is this difficult for you because you loved Scott Johnson and you were romantically involved with Matthew Brown?"

Williams' silence spoke louder than words.

On re-cross, Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked Williams, "Is it difficult for you because you are scared of being ostracized if you testify?"

"It is difficult because I know a lot of things that don't want to be told," responded Williams.

Related post;


Feb 4, 2015

Limmie Curry trial continued until March 9; Benjamin Carter's case set for trial on April 9

Benjamin Carter, who is charged with Count 1  murder. Count 2 is possession of a firearm. Two firearm enhancement allegations were added for both counts and a special allegation of prior and serious felony conviction. He is the suspect in the murder of Zachery Chapman.

Mr. Andrew Issac was in court today for the People; Mr. Michael Acosta is representing Carter. Both spoke before and after the court hearing. Mr. Issac told Judge John Feeney that "the case was on for a disposition and reset hearing today and that the parties had not reached a resolution." Last week, the defense made an offer for the People to review. Mr. Issac said that Mr. Acosta was going to file a 995 motion and Mr. Acosta said that it would be for two counts.

Jury trial has been set for April 6 at 8:30 a.m. and a Trial Confirmation hearing for March 11 at 2 p.m.

A California Penal Code 995 motion is  a request for the judge to dismiss one or more counts of the complaint.

Related posts to this Carter post:


Limmie Curry, who is charged with the murder of William Reid, has already been tried once. He has been awaiting another trial since last July. Today, there was a trial readiness conference scheduled and the jury trial had been scheduled for February 9. The People filed another motion to continue. DDA Kelly Neel is prosecuting the case. The last continuance was granted because she was prosecuting the Brown case, which is currently in trial, and due to difficulty in getting in touch with witnesses.

Same reasons were given again. Curry pulled his previous time waiver on January 21, 2015. The People were going to ask for 45 days and a trail date of March 23, 2015.

Public Defender Casey Russo, who represents Curry, said he opposed the People's motion. He said that the "same reasons were stated in the last motion to continue." He said that since Curry's last trial ended last July, the People have had time to contact witnesses and he said, "these motions to continue have only recently been made."

Referring to Ms. Neel's unavailability due to being in trial, Mr. Russo said that it should be a limited time waiver.

Ms. Neel countered with, "People cannot be tasked with keeping track of every witness in every case. Mr. Curry recently pulled his time waiver and he has also requested continuances."

Judge John Feeney said that "he found good cause to grant the People's motion but not for as long as the People requested." Jury trial has been scheduled for March 9, 2015 and Trial Readiness is march 2 at 2 p.m.

Limmie Curry's father had come up for the trial. He has been there to support his son since he has been in custody. After court, we spoke and he said he wanted people to know "he supports his son and loves him."

Matthew Brown's ex-gf confirms victim called him "bitch boy" and provoked him into fight

Prosecution's third witness today was Matthew Brown's ex-girlfriend Kara Williams, also known as Kara Kessler.

A conflicted witness, she briefly smiled at Brown. DDA Kelly Neel asked her, "Are you stressed?" She responded with, "I am feeling a lot of things."

Williams cried as she was shown a picture of Scott Johnson, the man who died 4 days after Brown allegedly shot Neil Decker, the victim in this case. She cried every time his name was mentioned this morning.

She had known Johnson for 20 years and met Decker through Johnson 10 years ago. Williams lived and worked on Johnson's property. She was romantically involved with Brown. They broke up and both started dating other people. She said she only started dating "Kai" after she learned Brown had moved in with his new girlfriend.

Ms. Neel asked Williams, "Do you love Matthew Brown?" She responded, "I loved him like a friend. I wasn't in love with him." According to her own testimony and others, she was the one who broke up with Brown and this was a few weeks before the shooting. She seemed embarrased to mention that she was older than him.

Brown initially laid his head on the table when Williams started testifying but then looked up. He kept turning back and looking at Decker's family and others in the courtroom.

She explained that Brown came up to Rancho Sequoia because they were dating. "Matthew was there because I wanted him there. He was the man on the property, the guy." This was when Johnson wasn't around. "He took on a lot because no one else was doing anything." Williams said that Brown did not have a job and that he basically helped out because he was living with her on the property. He had access to the house but "everyone knew the codes. The house was open to all who came around regularly."

She admitted she used meth with Brown but "not very often" with Decker because "it was not a social thing for me."

Williams had also dated Johnson years ago, when they first met but said, "he was more like a dad, a brother, a friend now."

She testified that the victim Neil Decker egged Brown into fighting with him even when Brown tried to avoid it. She also confirmed Johanna Hames testimony this morning that Decker called Brown "bitch boy". Hames had denied on cross that Decker called Brown "butt boy". Williams said that Decker threatened Brown and said, "he would fuck him in the ass."

She said she heard about the "pepper spray incident" that others had referred and that she witnessed another incident between Decker and Brown where Brown told Decker, "I don't want to fight you" but came down from a truck, they wrestled and then Brown walked away to avoid further fighting.
She said that "there was an ongoing disgareement " between Decker and Brown but that it was escalated and was mostly about "Neil being upset that the gates were being locked."

Williams said that Brown did not do meth before he came to Johnson's property and that the drugs made him lose focus and ultimately his job because he would not help out on the property like he did before. She said meth did not change Brown but that he "was verbally abusive...an asshole" when he did meth.

She said she was the one who spray painted "bitch boy" on Brown's motorcycle because she was pissed at him, not Decker. This had been brought up in Hames testimony earlier. Williams said twice that "Neil did not like Matthew" and that Brown got a firearm because he was afraid of Decker.

On cross by Brown's attorney, Mr. Greg Elvine-Kreiss, Williams explained that Brown thought people should not be coming in and out of the property. Earlier doing direct questioning from Ms. Neel, she said that this was the "one thing Matthew was good at, keeping the gates closed" and that Brown wanted control and that he did not like Decker leaving the gates unlocked and open. During cross, she elaborated on Decker's threats to "fuck Matt in the ass like the terminator did." According to her testimony, Brown told her he had been sexually assaulted by someone with that name.

As she was testifying, she kept looking back at Decker's family in the audience. Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked her if they were keeping her from telling the truth. They had been doing this all morning, looking at her. She responded with a no. Williams said that it was not Decker who accused Brown of stealing tools but "other people who wanted Matt gone."

Similar to Hames, Williams denied statements she had made to investigators today in court.

"Be careful what you say about the Alderpoint 8, media is here... John Chiv is here"

Decker's suporters cautioning each other and saying this to a witness who testified in the hallway outside the courtroom. Someone else besides me heard this statement. Out of sight doesn't mean I didn't overhear.

Channel 3 is the only other media that covered the first two days but Decker's family was oblivious to their presence since no cameras are allowed. One of these supporters is the same woman who was ejected from the courtroom the first day.

Dane Carr found not guilty of brandishing a deadly weapon

Verdict just came in minutes ago. Dane Carr was charged with violation of CA Penal Code 417. The jury heard closing arguments yesterday and went home at lunchtime. They came back this morning at 8;30 and had a verdict by 11:15.

CA Penal Code 417:

417.  (a) (1) Every person who, except in self-defense, in the
presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any deadly weapon
whatsoever, other than a firearm, in a rude, angry, or threatening
manner, or who in any manner, unlawfully uses a deadly weapon other
than a firearm in any fight or quarrel is guilty of a misdemeanor,
punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 30
   (2) Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of
any other person, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or
unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any
manner, unlawfully uses a firearm in any fight or quarrel is
punishable as follows:
   (A) If the violation occurs in a public place and the firearm is a
pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon
the person, by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than three
months and not more than one year, by a fine not to exceed one
thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.
   (B) In all cases other than that set forth in subparagraph (A), a
misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less
than three months.
   (b) Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of
any other person, draws or exhibits any loaded firearm in a rude,
angry, or threatening manner, or who, in any manner, unlawfully uses
any loaded firearm in any fight or quarrel upon the grounds of any
day care center, as defined in Section 1596.76 of the Health and
Safety Code, or any facility where programs, including day care
programs or recreational programs, are being conducted for persons
under 18 years of age, including programs conducted by a nonprofit
organization, during the hours in which the center or facility is
open for use, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison
for 16 months, or two or three years, or by imprisonment in a county
jail for not less than three months, nor more than one year.
   (c) Every person who, in the immediate presence of a peace
officer, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded,
in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, and who knows, or reasonably
should know, by the officer's uniformed appearance or other action
of identification by the officer, that he or she is a peace officer
engaged in the performance of his or her duties, and that peace
officer is engaged in the performance of his or her duties, shall be
punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than nine
months and not to exceed one year, or in the state prison for 16
months, or two or three years.
   (d) Except where a different penalty applies, every person who
violates this section when the other person is in the process of
cleaning up graffiti or vandalism is guilty of a misdemeanor,
punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than three
months nor more than one year.
   (e) As used in this section, "peace officer" means any person
designated as a peace officer pursuant to Chapter 4.5 (commencing
with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2.
   (f) As used in this section, "public place" means any of the
   (1) A public place in an incorporated city.
   (2) A public street in an incorporated city.
   (3) A public street in an unincorporated area.

Day 2: Key Prosecution witness in Brown case decimated on cross by defense

It is only the second day of the jury trial in the Matthew Brown case. Today, Scott Johnson's girlfriend, Johanna Hames continued her testimony. She was upstairs in an office near the bedroom where Neil Decker was shot.

Mr. Greg Elvine-Kreiss decimated her on cross. Confronting her with inconsistencies in testimony between what she told the pilice and now; making her back pedal when she changed what she said in direct and cross within minutes this morning, her testimony today proved the defense's opening argument.

DDA Neel did a brief redirect which did not help because Hames dug a ditch with her own testimony.
Ms. Neel clearly asked her, "You have taken an oath to tell the truth here today?" and Hames said "yes" and about relevance to which Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked on re-cross. "So you only tell the truth when it is relevant?"

Hames was clearly frustrated and knew Mr. Elvine-Kreiss had suceeded. On her way out of the courtroom, she told Decker's family members her frustration with the questions and expressed her disdain for Brown,. "He is sitting there in his black shirt and his pointy hair"

Hames testimony was a lot of opinion and her dislike of Brown. She even admitted that on the day of the shooting, she told "Kai", the huy who was dating Brown's ex-girlfriend Kara Williams to saty even though he was drunk so Brown would get annoyed and leave.

She gave details about being in an office next to the bedroom where later that evening, Johnson and Brown talked about issues he was having with people and that Decker went into the bedroom twice when his name was mentioned. Brown was telling Johnson that Decker sold some tools that Brown was supposed to make sure were safe. Han]mes said that she did not hear Decker threaten Brown but the second time he went into Johnson's bedroom, he told Brown, "Why are you talking about this?" which referred to Brown mentioning a welder Decker had sold that belonged to Johnson. Hames did admit Decker was annoyed but insisted he was calm. She said Brown was warning Johnson about Decker and again Decker said to him, "This is none of your business."

Hames testified that she heard Brown cuss at Decker but did not hear what he said. She said she thought "Brown was brave because he was cussing at Neil."

After some conversation, she heard a gunshot and heard Johnson say, "Did you just shoot him?"
She said she heard Johnson get angrier and angrier and Brown saying, "What are you doing Dad? Why are you taking the gun away from me?" Hames said she saw Decker lying on the floor and she ran to call 911, could not get a dial tone and thinking "Neil is going to die"  but got through  and went upstairs and that "Ray" was there and "Lion" was there. There was no mention of these people before or how they got there. Ms. Neel showed Hames a photo of a blanket and she said,"that's Neil blood all over it."

Ms. Neel asked her if at any time she saw anyone else besides Brown with a firearm, if she saw anyone threaten Brown and if she saw any firearms in that bedroom and to all questions, Hames said, "no."

Hanes said she, Decker and Brown used meth but that Decker did not change on meth and that he was not "overly aggressive." She said that Brown never told her that he was afraid of Decker and she kept saying that Brown and Decker's disagreements were "over stupid things" like the gates being left unlocked. She also said she never talked to Decker about his behavior with Brown.

On cross, when Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked her again if Decker's demeanor changed when he was on meth, she was adamant it did not. Earlier she said Brown was fired because he did not do his job and look after the property and tool shed but on cross, she said that "one of the reasons he was fired because he did not show any interest in helping with the marijuana grow."

Hames was hostile and short in her responses on cross and when Mr. Elvine-Kreiss would press further, she would reluctantly answer. Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked her if she read any articles or talked to anyone about her testimony since she she testified yesterday. She denied it. Please see post where she had just walked out of courtroom and was talking with family members in the courtroom and they referred to my post about the Alderpoint 8.

Another instance where Mr. Elvine-Kreiss questioned her about guns in the house, she said yes but not in the house, out on the property; yes but not in the bedroom that day. Mr. Elvine-Kreiss pointed out that she had previously said that there were guns in the house but today she was stating differently. Today she said Johnson asked the police if he could have his guns back in the house or on his property.

He followed that up with, "You are recalling today something that is new, that Scott got his gun back in the bedroom after Matthew Brown fled?"

"You told the police that when Neil entered the bedroom he was angry" and today she was saying he was calm. Hames was backed in a corner When he offered to show her the police report, to refresh her recollection, Hames responded, "I'll take your word for it." She then said, as she can recall today, "he was calm."

Kreiss mentioned another statement she made before today, "At some point you told Matt he didn't need to carry a gun. If Neil wanted to hurt him, he would regardless." Hames denied the second part of the statement in court today.

Other inconsistency he brought up that was that earlier she had testified she was not aware of bad blood between Decker and Brown but now she said she was aware of a "mutual dislike." Just earlier this morning on direct, she said that Brown was brave to cuss at Decker but on cross, she said Brown was apologetic and that it surprised her that he cussed. When he offered to show her the police report again, she refused and responded to him with "i don't recall. I was traumatized" when she made earlier statements.

She said that Decker never called Brown "bitch boy" and that he never threatened to "butt-fuck" Brown but another witness, Brown's ex-girlfriend who is a close friend of Hames later confirmed this to be true. Hames went back and forth on who did meth. "You referred to Matt as a wussy and that is why he carried a gun? You said Neil could have got him at anytime." She denied this statements.

She said Decker was not a violent person and that she only knew about the Alderpoint 8 from the Lost Coast and she was only familiar with a man named Quentin from the "papers."

Will the People accept the defense offer in the Benjamin Carter trial or set dates?

The defense made an offer last week to the People in the Benjamin Carter case. This afternoon that case is scheduled for disposition/reset this afternoon.

People file for a continuance in the Limmie Curry murder case

The Limmie Curry case, where he is charged with the murder of William Reid, is scheduled for trial February 9.

This afternoon, a trial readiness conference is scheduled. The people have filed a motion for another continuance. Will it be granted?

Curry's co-defendant, Eddie Lee, had a separate trial and he is a free man.

Feb 3, 2015

"He shot me in my fucking heart" is what victim's girlfriend testifies in the Rancho Sequoia murder case

The first witness to testify this morning in the Matthew Brown case was the victim's girlfriend.  Neil Decker's partner Melissa Toner originally from Southern California lived with Decker on Rancho Sequoia Drive. They lived near Scott Johnson and his girlfriend Johanna Hames. The second witness to briefly testify before the court adjourned for this case today was Hames.

Toner teared up as DDA Neel showed her Decker's picture in court. She said Decker helped Johnson build an add on to his property and did odd jobs for him. Toner said that Decker and she were like "family" to Johnson and that they visited his house every day. She met Brown through Johnson two years ago. Toner said that Brown was dating another woman, their friend Kara Williams, and lived in a camper on Johnson's property. Toner told DDA Kelly Neel that it was "known to everybody" that Decker and Brown "had a mutual dislike of each other." Toner said that the conflict between Brown and Decker was over what Brown "did on the property."

WhenNe Neel asked Toner how she felt about Brown, she responded, "When I first met him he was a likeable guy, I don't like him anymore, he killed my...he killed Neil." Unlike Hames, Toner did not glare at Brown. With Hames, it was very obvious she disliked Brown. In fact, when Hames started testifying, she said, "I honestly didn't care about Matthew."

 While Toner was being questioned on direct by Ms. Neel, she said she did not witness any incidents between Decker and Brown but had heard about them. She was very specific she did not witness the "bear spray incident." While she was testifying, Brown was whispering to his attorney and writing things down.  On the day of the shooting, Toner said that she did not hear any yelling or arguing, she heard a gunshot and "I heard Hana scream, 'You shot Neil.'"

Toner said she ran upstairs and that "Neil was standing by the window, he looked at his chest and he was bleeding. He said, 'He shot me in my fucking heart.' We said I love you to each other and those were the last words Neil said to me." Toner was crying at this point.

When she calmed down, she said she saw Brown and Johnson struggling with Brown's shotgun. Toner said that Johnson said: "You shot my friend." and that Brown responded, "Dad what? Dad what?" She claims that then Brown jumped out the window on to the balcony which led downstairs.

On cross, Brown's attorney, Mr, Elvine-Kreiss brought up the fact that many people only go by first names or nicknames in that area. This became apparent when testimony later referred to Ray Ray and red- headed Bob and Dave. On cross, Toner could not be specific why Brown used either bear spray or pepper on Bob but claimed he just did and that he blocked their entrance at the Johnson house a few minutes later and that pissed Decker off so he sprayed Brown. Mr. Elvine-Kreiss pointed out to Toner that initially she said "blood was everywhere" and that a few minutes earlier she said Decker was shot in the chest and he was bleeding. He pointed out a couple of other inconsistencies between prior and today's testimony. As he questioned her, Toner made a vague reference that "Neil was mad because Matthew would lock gates what were supposed to be unlocked."

Mr. Elvine-Kreiss got Toner to admit that Decker used meth and that she did too but Toner said that she was not on meth the night Decker got shot. When Mr. Elvine-Kreiss asked her if she knew about a group called the Alderpoint 8. She said "yes." When Mr. Elvine-Kreiss said, "How do you know that group?" She responded, "I don't know how to answer that."

When Ms. Neel questioned Toner on re-direct, she questioned her about a surprise she gave Ms. Neel today in court. On direct, she told Ms. Neel that she had not witnessed any incident between Decker and Brown. On cross, she told Mr. Elvine-Kreiss differently.

Regarding her meth use, when Ms. Neel said, "Is it common for people to use methamphetamine in that area?", Toner said, "yes." She also admitted that prior to Brown's taking care of Johnson's property, she and Decker had free reign of the house, the issue about the gates was not so much about locking and unlocking but about Brown being in control.

On re-cross, Mr. Elvine-Kreiss was able to get Toner to admit that Decker and she argued. She would not admit to Decker being violent. Ms. Neel objected to a question by Mr. Elvine-Kreiss about Decker's alleged domestic violence record and whether he was physically violent with Toner and after they privately approached and talked with Judge Feeney, Toner was excused but "subject to recall."

Hames, briefly testified that several people lived on the property, that she never cared for Brown, that he was living on the property when he was dating a friend of theirs but then they broke up and he lived in the area with another girlfriend but still worked for Johnson.

Today before court adjourned she told DDA Neel that Brown told her that "Neil Decker wasn't a good friend to Scott." She then said they had issues other than the "jealousy" between them about "who was Scott's best friend."

"On that evening, Matt had no choice but to shoot"

"Mr. Brown and I both understand the seriousness and sadness in a case where a human being was killed," is how Brown's attorney, Mr. Greg Elvine-Kreiss started his opening to the jury this morning.

"Mr. Brown tried to work this out with Mr. Decker. Evidence will show that Mr. Decker was intimidating. Mr. Brown shot Mr. Decker in the chest; Mr. Decker shot in self-defense."

Mr. Elvine-Kreiss countered the People's opening by sating that," The People cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt;  this was a justifiable homicide." Mr. Elvine-Kreiss said that Rancho Sequoia where the murder occurred "has been described as the Wild West."

"You will hear that Mr. Decker lied to people to turn them against Matt. That he was violent. You will hear testimony that he hated Matt."

"You will hear testimony that in one incident Matt tried to defend himself from Neil with bear spray. You will hear testimony that Neil threw a knife at Matt and Matt ran away." Mr. Elvine-Kreiss referring to the gun that Ms. Neel said Brown carried all the time and which was a part of his outfit claimed that Brown carried that shotgun because he was afraid of Decker and what he might do.

Mr. Elvine-Kreiss said that evidence would show that both Decker and Johnson were part of a vigilante group and that Brown had heard about another murder, another body being disposed of and later after he fled the crime scene that Johnson was shot 4 days later. "Matt knew that they resolved conflicts with violence. He didn't call the police because he knew that they dealt with conflicts with vigilante justice "

"Matt was an outsider, he moved to the area. He fled because Scott Johnson took his gun and tried to kill him. He was in the woods, in a area with dirt roads with very little police presence and limited cell service."

Mr.  Elvine Kreiss said that Brown moved up here to "help a father figure and that he wanted to come up and make some money."

He said that Brown will testify about a secret room upstairs in Johnson's house where there was a gun. Decker was shot upstairs in Johnson's house. "You are going to see a culture of guns."

"People who are going to testify loved Neil. Now they will say he is calm. But at first they said he was angry with a clenched jaw. On that evening, Matt had no choice but to shoot."

Matthew Brown was asked to come to the Johnson home to work out differences. Matthew Brown came over carrying a loaded gun."

" Why are we here?". DDA Kelly Neel started her remarks to the jury in the Matthew Brown case with that question. "Because on July 18, 2014, Matthew Brown went to the house of Scott Johnson. He had worked for him for a few months.  He was asked to leave because of some disputes between him and others."  Matthew Brown and Neil Decker didn't like each other.

Ms. Neel continued that the jury would "most likely hear testimony" that Neil Decker said mean things and picked on Matthew Brown. They would hear testimony that Neil Decker was shot and killed in Scott Johnson's house. "He was unarmed and defenseless."

"Matthew Brown was asked to come to the Johnson home to work out differences.  Matthew Brown came over carrying a loaded gun."

Regarding Decker being defenseless, Ms. Neel said that the jury would hear testimony that this was a false statement. She the prosecution would provide testimony that everyone with knowledge of the incident would say that Decker was unarmed. "There was no yelling or screaming."

"Neal Decker was 49. He was a son, a brother, a partner and Matthew Brown took his life for no reason."

"You will hear from people present about being in shock, they called 911, Neil Decker was still breathing, they drove Neil Decker to an area where a helicopter could land."

"You will hear testimony that Matthew Brown fled; he didn't stick around; didn't call law enforcement to say why he did it. He fled and he was captured later in the wilderness."

"When captured, he lied. He didn't say, 'I was terrified of Neil Decker. I had to shoot."

"Many people involved in this were growing marijuana. Matthew Brown came up from Southern California with Scott Johnson, who he referred to as dad. Then she referred to another witness, Laura Hall, who Brown considered a mom, who he contacted after the shooting. Ms. Neel reiterated that Brown did not tell this witness he was scared.

While acknowleding that no one can say why the murder occurred, Ms. Neel implied that "Neil Decker's close relationship with Scott Johnson was an issue for Matthew Brown."

First day of Murder Mountain homicide covers meth, vigilante justice and the Alderpoint 8

Is Matthew Brown, a man who gunned down "an unarmed and defenseless" Neil Decker or "on that evening, Matt had no choice but to shoot."

The prosecution and defense agree on one thing: Neil Decker and Matthew Brown did not like each other. There are some other facts they agree on but the prosecution paints Brown as a man who killed Decker in cold blood and the defense tells a story of an outsider brought into "the wild west" who feared his life and the "vigilante justice" of the Alderpoint 8.

Both, DDA Kelly Neel and Brown's defense attorney, Mr. Greg-Elvine Kreiss presented equally compelling opening arguments which were followed by Neil Decker's girlfriend and Scott Johnson's girlfriend testifying this morning.

Johnson was a friend to both men and employed them both. Decker's family/friends were present today, rudely talking during opening arguments, testimony. One person was ejected from the courtroom later for either distracting the jury or some other inteference after a private admonishment by the bailiff. The same woman glared at Brown when she first entered the courtroom.

Brown is charged with Count 1 murder, a felony with special allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm/a shot gun, which Judge Feeney in his preliminary jury instructions said makes this a serious and violent crime and another special allegation where the intentional discharge of the firearm led to great bodily injury.

Only Channel 3 was present today in court.

Minutes before opening arguments for Brown, jury told "sudden change"

Minutes before the jury was going to be called to hear opening arguments in the Alderpoint homicide case where Matthew Brown is charged with the murder of Neil Decker, the bailiff came out and said theyvwere to come back at 9:30 due to a "sudden change." DA investigator Jack Bernstein talked privately with Decker's family.

Opening arguments will still start shortly. No change in the case.

Feb 2, 2015

Jury selected for Alderpoint homicide suspect Matthew Brown; opening arguments tommorow?

Jury selection was just completed in the case where Matthew Brown is charged with the murder of Neil Decker.

Opening arguments expected to start tomorrow.