News Articles - Part II July 27-29, 1999
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Ventura County Star, © Los Angeles Times & © The Ojai Valley
July 27, 1999
Detective Tells Judge of Murder Suspect's Drug Use
Courts: David Alvarez bought cocaine the night Ojai teen Kali Manley was strangled, witness says.
By TRACY WILSON, Times Staff Writer
A detective testified Tuesday that murder suspect David Alvarez snorted cocaine and sought other drugs just hours before he allegedly strangled Oak View teen Kali Manley.
Sheriff's Det. Daniel Thompson told a judge during a preliminary hearing that on the night of Dec. 19, Alvarez was despondent over a fight with some friends and went to visit former schoolmate Robert Miears to score some cocaine.
The pair went then to a dealer in Ojai and bought $20 worth of the drug, which Alvarez used before asking Miears if he could also get some marijuana, Thompson said.
In the hours that followed, the detective testified, Alvarez and Miears picked up Kali Manley from her girlfriend's house, bought some wine coolers and drove to a Meiners Oaks trailer park.
It was there that Manley, a 14-year-old Nordhoff High School freshman, was allegedly murdered during an attempted rape. Alvarez, 22, is charged with those offenses and has pleaded not guilty.
Only two witnesses--Thompson and the defendant's 20-year-old ex-wife--were called to testify Tuesday during the first day of Alvarez's preliminary hearing.
The proceedings started several hours late because of a lack of available courtroom space, and were halted early because the judge had to turn his attention to an unrelated jury verdict.
Thompson had just begun to recount his interview with Miears when the hearing was cut short. He is expected to return to the witness stand this morning.
Lawyers are also expected to address a legal issue concerning the proposed testimony of Brooke Alvarez, the defendant's wife of four years.
In a barely audible voice, the former Ojai resident reluctantly took the witness stand Tuesday afternoon and told Superior Court Judge James P. Cloninger that she did not want to testify against her ex-husband.
The couple only recently divorced, and attorneys said she is now living in Idaho. State prosecutors flew her in to testify, but she indicated that she first wanted to talk to a lawyer.
Defense attorneys James M. Farley and Robert Schwartz say she cannot be compelled to testify against their client because of a marital privilege protecting spouses from incriminating each other in court.
"The law is very simple," Farley said after Tuesday's hearing. "The spouse has the right to claim the privilege--divorce does not wipe that out."
But Deputy Atty. Gen. Michael Katz has indicated in court papers that the marital privilege should not apply in this case, because the couple have been estranged for several years. They separated in 1997.
The attorneys are scheduled to argue the issue before Cloninger this morning, and then testimony is expected to resume. Brooke Alvarez was ordered to appear in court again today.
During her brief appearance in court Tuesday, the petite young woman, who dropped out of Nordhoff High School and married Alvarez when she was 16, stared at her hands and avoided eye contact with anyone.
Sitting several feet away at the defense counsel table, Alvarez watched his former spouse and rocked back and forth in a swivel chair. The couple have a 3-year-old son.
State prosecutors said in court Tuesday that they have offered her "use immunity" to testify, meaning that whatever she says in court cannot be held against her.
It is not clear what Brooke Alvarez would offer in the way of evidence. But court records have previously shown that David Alvarez went to his wife's home on the morning Manley was reported missing. Search warrant records also indicate that the some of the girl's belongings were found there.
While Brooke Alvarez discussed her offer of immunity and possible spousal privilege with a court-appointed lawyer, prosecutors called Thompson to testify.
He told the judge that he interviewed Miears at the sheriff's station in Ojai three days after Manley was reported missing by her father, Charles Manley, who sat in court Tuesday beside his wife, Holly.
Miears told Thompson that Alvarez drove them to a house in Meiners Oaks where they met two girls, Manley and her friend Ashley Helfrich. Alvarez asked the girls to come with them, but Helfrich refused.
Manley, however, went with the two men to a nearby convenience store where Miears purchased the wine coolers, Thompson said.
The trio then drove to a trailer park where Alvarez had access to a mobile home, and they drank the beverages.
That was as far as Thompson got in his testimony Tuesday. Both he and Brooke Alvarez are expected to be called back to the stand today. The hearing is expected to last at least another day and a half.
|July 28, 1999 SECOND DAY
OF THE HEARING
Slain Girl Showed No Signs of Rape, Doctor Testifies
Hearing: Findings from Kali Manley autopsy are key to death penalty in case against David Alvarez.
By TRACY WILSON, Times Staff Writer
Slain Oak View teen Kali Manley had no injuries that indicated she was sexually assaulted before her death, but autopsy results did find trace amounts of drugs and alcohol in her system, the county's medical examiner testified Wednesday.
The findings by Dr. Ronald O'Halloran undermine a special allegation that the 14-year-old girl was murdered during an attempted rape on Dec. 20, 1998.
The allegation is significant because if proven it would make suspect David Alvarez eligible for the death penalty. The 22-year-old Ojai man is facing charges of murder, attempted rape and making terrorist threats. He has pleaded not guilty.
During the second day of testimony at Alvarez's preliminary hearing, O'Halloran told a judge that the victim had been strangled.
Scrapes and bruises were found on her neck at the time of autopsy. The medical examiner also observed wounds to her hands and left arm that could have been caused while trying to defend herself, he said.
Manley had small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in her system, as well as a prescription antidepressant, he said. She also had a blood-alcohol level of .03%, a level equivalent to consuming one or two drinks, he said.
As for the allegation of attempted rape, O'Halloran testified that he could find no evidence of sexual trauma or traces of sperm.
The medical examiner was among a dozen witnesses who took the stand Wednesday to testify about the investigation into the slaying of the Nordhoff High School freshman.
Manley was last seen with Alvarez and his friend Robert Miears in the early morning hours of Dec. 20. She left a girlfriend's house with the two men, whom she did not know, around midnight.
Miears later told Sheriff's Det. Daniel Thompson that they all went to a nearby Circle K convenience store, where he bought a four-pack of wine coolers, and then to a trailer owned by Alvarez's family.
During the drive, Miears told the detective, Alvarez asked Manley if she used drugs or wanted to use drugs, and she replied that she did not.
Manley and Alvarez drank some wine coolers and retreated to a bedroom, the detective testified. He said Miears told him the girl went willingly and was not coerced in any way.
Alvarez later came out of the bedroom and said he intended to have sex with Manley, Thompson testified.
Miears fell asleep and woke up later that morning to find both Alvarez and the girl gone, Thompson said. Miears told the detective that he never heard a scream or other sound.
While walking back to downtown Ojai that morning, Miears told the detective, he was picked up by Alvarez and Alvarez's mother-in-law in her vehicle. Miears said Alvarez appeared to have been drinking and acted like he had also been snorting cocaine.
The two friends left the mother-in-law at her house in Ojai and drove to a liquor store where Alvarez bought a small bottle of vodka, opened it and immediately began drinking, the detective testified.
Alvarez never mentioned Manley that day, but called Miears the next morning to tell him that he had left Manley at the Circle K.
The girl's body was located in a drainage pipe near Pine Mountain a week later after a massive search of the Ojai back country. It was Alvarez who led authorities to the scene.
Sheriff's Det. Robert LeMay was riding in the back seat of Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury's vehicle as they drove the suspect and his lawyers to the scene on Dec. 26.
LeMay testified Wednesday that Alvarez twice broke into tears during the drive, first as the vehicle turned onto California 33 toward Ojai and later as he and LeMay sat alone during a brief stop for gas.
"Mr. Alvarez turned to me and said, 'I'm only 22 and she was 14.' He then added, 'You know, I have a 3-year-old son . . . " LeMay testified, saying Alvarez then broke down.
When the group approached the remote spot where the girl's naked body was recovered, Alvarez was asked to specify the location. According to LeMay, he responded by saying: "I'm not sure, it was dark and I was drunk."
That remark was one of several incriminating statements offered as evidence during the hearing. Several other detectives testified about comments the defendant allegedly made after Manley was reported missing.
A county jail inmate told one detective that while in custody, Alvarez told him he "was drunk and that he had done . . . something stupid" on the night Manley disappeared.
Authorities intercepted a letter from Alvarez to another jail inmate, Vincent "Ryan" Gatica, who is also awaiting trial on a murder charge. In the letter, a deputy testified, Alvarez wrote in code: "Looks like [I] am [expletive]."
Det. Cheryl Wade testified about a January interview she had with the sister of one of Alvarez's friends. Britta Appoldt told Wade that her brother, Eric, saw Alvarez later on the morning of Dec. 20.
Alvarez reportedly had blood on his clothes and was acting "crazy," she said. Britta told Wade that Alvarez admitted to her brother that he had killed someone and could not bury the body because the ground was frozen. Eric Appoldt later denied the statement.
On cross-examination of Wade, defense attorney Robert Schwartz challenged the credibility of Britta's account. Wade acknowledged that Britta told her she "hated" Alvarez and "wanted him to fry."
Conflicting testimony was presented regarding threats Alvarez allegedly made to a woman at the convenience store where Alvarez, Miears and Manley stopped on their way to the trailer.
The woman, Kim Schmeltz, told deputies that Alvarez flashed a gun at her in the parking lot and made violent threats before speeding away. Alvarez knew Schmeltz as the mother of some local teens.
Miears, however, told Det. Thompson that he never saw a gun and never heard Alvarez say anything to a woman in another car.
During the hearing Wednesday, Judge James P. Cloninger interrupted testimony to decide whether the defendant's wife, Brooke Alvarez, could assert her marital privilege to avoid having to testify against her husband.
State prosecutors, who have taken over the case because Bradbury is friends with Alvarez's parents, contend the marriage should not be legally recognized because the couple have been separated for three years and are in the midst of a divorce.
But Brooke Alvarez told the judge Wednesday that she has since decided to stay in the marriage. When questioned about statements she made in court documents last year accusing her husband of domestic abuse, Brooke Alvarez told lawyers she "exaggerated."
Although David Alvarez told friends he considered her his ex-wife, Brooke Alvarez told the judge she still considers herself married. She is now living in Idaho with their 3-year-old son, David Luis Alvarez.
Prosecutors fought hard Wednesday to force her to testify, though it was not clear what she would offer to the proceedings. They treated her as a hostile witness, then called two other women to the stand who testified that David Alvarez made sexual advances to them just days before his arrest.
But in the end, Cloninger ruled that since the divorce is not final, Brooke Alvarez maintains her right not to testify.
The preliminary hearing is expected to conclude today.
|July 29, 1999
Judge orders Alvaraz held to answer in Kali's death
by Lenny Roberts
© 1999 The Ojai Valley News
On the third and final day of a preliminary hearing in the murder of Oak View teen-ager Kali Manley, Superior Court Judge James P. Cloninger ruled that David Ramiro Alvarez must be held to answer for the crime.
The allegation that Manley was sexually assaulted prior to being strangled Dec. 20 - which would add "special circumstances" to the charges that could result in the death penalty for her murderer - was placed in jeopardy Wednesday when the county's chief medical examiner testified there was no indication of forced sex.
"There's no physical evidence," said Dr. David O'Halloran. "But I can't say that someone didn't try to rape her."
But Thursday, Cloninger ruled that the charges of murder and rape will stand, along with a charge of terrorist threats, from an unrelated incident.
Alvarez is due back in court Aug. 12 and remains in custody without bail.
Under examination by Deputy Attorney General Michael Katz, O'Halloran said that Manley's body displayed extensive and multiple pre- and post-mortal injuries and that blood and urine samples taken from the 14-year-old Nordhoff High School freshman during an autopsy revealed that she had small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in her system, prescription anti-depressant medication and a blood-alcohol level of .03%, indicating that she had consumed one or two drinks.
Pre-mortal injuries discovered during the autopsy were internal neck bruises and external abrasions on the skin of her neck; a bruise on her lower left jaw and a petechial hemorrhage in one of her eyeballs, which O'Halloran said was commonly found in victims of manual asphyxiation.
There were also two broken fingernails on her left hand; a cut on her right hand and bruises on a leg, arm and scalp that O'Halloran said were sustained prior to death, indicating possible defensive actions during a struggle with her attacker.
During an interview with Robert Miears, who accompanied Alvarez to the home of Ashley Helfrich, where Manley was staying on the night that she disappeared, Miears told Detective Daniel Thompson that Manley went to the Mira Monte Circle K to buy strawberry wine coolers with the two men.
About an hour after Manley left the Helfrich house, Thompson said that Miears told him that Alvarez offered Manley some cocaine at his Woodland Avenue mobile home, which she declined, and eventually took her into the master bedroom to have sex with her.
When Miears awoke the next morning, Alvarez and Manley were gone. Miears told Thompson that he later received a call from Alvarez, who told him that he had dropped Manley off near the Circle K.
Called as witnesses for the prosecution, a series of Ventura County sheriff's deputies and detectives assigned to the case testified that they had interviewed acquaintances of Alvarez who told them that Alvarez was drunk, "coked-up" and acting strangely during the morning hours of Dec. 20 before and during an unannounced visit to the Meiners Oaks home of friend Eric Appoldt.
Sheriff's Detective Cheryl Wade testified that during a Jan. 8 interview, Appoldt's sister, Britta, told her that Appoldt confirmed Alvarez' Dec. 20 visit and that he saw blood on Alvarez's clothing.
"Eric told her that David came over in the morning and had blood all over him," Wade began.
"He was acting crazy and said that he had tried to bury someone but the ground was frozen. And that's why they found her in the pipe."
On cross-examination, defense attorney Robert Schwartz challenged the credibility of Britta Appoldt's statement because Manley's body was not discovered until the day after Christmas.
"Britta said the statements from Eric were made on Sunday, Dec. 20, 1998, but as of Dec. 20, 1998, the body had not been found," Schwartz argued.
On Dec. 22, detectives Thompson and Robert LeMay interviewed Eric Appoldt at his parents' home. LeMay testified Wednesday that Appoldt confirmed Alvarez showed up at the home sometime after 10 a.m. on Dec. 21 and had blood droplets on the right front pocket area of his blue jeans.
LeMay then described Appoldt as being an uncooperative witness who would deny anything that he told LeMay during the Dec. 22 interview despite the interview being tape recorded.
Appoldt told LeMay that Alvarez justified the blood droplets by saying that he had been in a fight the night before - the last night that Manley was seen alive.
Tommy Gonzalves, who was also interviewed, said that he saw Alvarez the day after Manley's disappearance.
"He said, 'Man, you know, I think I killed someone but I don't know if they're dead,'" Gonzalves said.
With attorney James Farley, then-defender Louis "Chuck" Samonsky and other police officials on the morning of Dec. 26, LeMay was seated next to Alvarez in the back of a Chevrolet Suburban driven by District Attorney Michael Bradbury.
As directed by Alvarez, Bradbury led an entourage of 15 to 20 sheriff's vehicles from the Government Center to the Maricopa Highway drainage pipe where Manley's body was recovered.
LeMay testified that while alone with Alvarez in Bradbury's vehicle, the suspect said, "I'm only 22 and she was 14," and "You know, I have a 3-year-old son I'll never see ."
Alvarez, LeMay testified, then began to cry.
Alvarez's estranged wife, Brooke Campbell-Alvarez, appeared in court. However, she was determined to be a hostile witness because she refused to testify after she was brought to Ventura from Idaho by the prosecution.
After much discussion, Judge Cloninger ruled that even though Alvarez refers to her as his ex-wife, she could not testify against Alvarez because they are still legally married.
Although she could not remember the last time that she had sex with Alvarez - or even the date or month of their marriage - Campbell-Alvarez said that she had changed her mind and had no intention of seeking a dissolution of the marriage, which has produced their son, David Luis Alvarez.
Alvarez Must Stand Trial in Death of Kali Manley
Crime: Judge finds sufficient evidence for charges of murder and attempted rape in the strangulation of Oak View 14-year-old. He cites signs that victim fought to fend off attacker.
By TRACY WILSON, Times Staff Writer
Accused killer David Alvarez was ordered to stand trial Thursday on charges of murder and attempted rape after a judge found sufficient evidence that he strangled Oak View teen Kali Manley during a sexual assault last winter.
"This young lady was in a fight," said Superior Court Judge James P. Cloninger. "She struggled. The evidence shows the defendant was the person she struggled with."
Standing outside the courtroom, defense attorney James M. Farley expressed disappointment, saying he plans to file a motion to dismiss the attempted rape charge and a special allegation that make his 22-year-old client eligible for the death penalty.
"There is no, absolutely no, evidence of an attempted, forcible rape," Farley said, citing testimony by the county's medical examiner. "None."
A 14-year-old Nordhoff High School freshman, Manley's bruised and naked body was uncovered inside a drain pipe in the mountains above Ojai on Dec. 26, a week after she was reported missing from a girlfriend's house in Ojai.
Evidence presented this week at Alvarez's preliminary hearing showed that around midnight Manley left the house with Alvarez and another man, neither of whom she knew. They bought wine coolers at a convenience store and then went to the defendant's trailer.
There, Manley and Alvarez retreated to a back bedroom with the beverages. She was not seen alive again, and Alvarez eventually led authorities to her corpse.
Although the medical examiner found no signs of sexual trauma or sperm during an autopsy, state prosecutors argued that Manley was choked to death while trying to defend herself from Alvarez's sexual advances.
To support the charge, Deputy Atty. Gen. Michael Katz noted that Manley's body was found nude, and he pointed to a statement Alvarez made to his friend, Robert Miears, before the slaying about how he intended to have sex with the girl.
But Farley argued that the statement alone is not evidence of attempted rape. As for the nudity, he said Manley could have undressed voluntarily. Citing a lack of physical evidence, he asked Cloninger to dismiss the charge and special allegation, which could spare his client's life.
But the judge said bruises, broken fingernails and scrapes found on the girl's body suggest Alvarez attempted to force sex with her and she tried to stop him.
The judge also speculated that Manley may not have gone willingly with Alvarez and Miears. Two witnesses who saw Manley at the convenience store told authorities she looked scared.
"That causes one to wonder whether she was a willing participant of anything that night," Cloninger said.
He then ordered Alvarez to stand trial on charges of murder and attempted rape, as well as the special allegation that Manley was murdered during the commission of an attempted rape.
Dressed in a blue jail uniform, Alvarez turned and looked sadly at his parents after the ruling. Katz smiled and shook hands with the victim's father.
State prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek the death penalty, and Katz refused to comment Thursday on when such a decision might be announced.
Alvarez was also ordered Thursday to stand trial on a separate felony charge of making terrorist threats to a woman he encountered at the convenience store the night of the slaying.
In that incident, Alvarez allegedly flashed a gun at Kim Schmeltz and made a violent remark as the woman drove out of the parking lot with her 18-year-old son. Alvarez, who knew Schmeltz's children, was driving away at the same time with Miears and Manley in his truck.
A second threat charge stemming from the same incident was dropped by the prosecution. And a charge accusing Alvarez of assault with a deadly weapon was dismissed by Cloninger for lack of evidence.
The judge suggested the charge should have been for brandishing a weapon, not assault with one, because there was no evidence Alvarez pointed a firearm at Schmeltz or her son.
Alvarez is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 12 on the remaining counts. His murder trial is expected to begin in October.
In the meantime, Farley said he intends to file a motion for a change of venue, suggesting that publicity has tainted the prospective jury pool in Ventura County.
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