The first defendant to be accused of participating in the murder of a 26-year-old Turlock man has agreed to a plea deal with the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office that will result in him taking the stand against the other defendants.
Robert Lee Woody entered a no contest plea to charges of voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy to obstruct justice and arson in the death of Korey Kauffman, said Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney John Goold.
Woody also agreed to testify in the preliminary hearing against the remaining defendants, including defense attorney Frank Carson.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office says Carson was angry over thefts at his property on Ninth Street that he believed were being committed by his Lander Avenue neighbor Michael Cooley. Their theory of the case has Carson - the one-time candidate for district attorney - serving as the mastermind of a criminal conspiracy that ultimately led to the death of Kauffman on March 31, 2012.
According to the district attorney's case, Carson and the eight others charged in connection with the murder worked to hide the death from authorities and thwart any investigation. In addition to Carson, the district attorney has accused his wife, Georgia DeFilippo, Turlock brothers and Pop N' Cork owners Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal, of Ceres, and former California Highway Patrol Officer Walter Wells with murder. Former CHP Officers Scott McFarlane, Eduardo Quintanar, and Carson's stepdaughter Christina DeFilippo have all been charged with being accessories after the fact and conspiracy. McFarlane and Quintanar are not part of the preliminary hearing. All of the remaining defendants have entered not guilty pleas.
Kauffman was last seen by his friends leaving their Lander Avenue residence and heading over to a property on Ninth Street in Turlock. Investigators have said Kauffman was going to a home that belonged to Carson with the intention of stealing some irrigation pipes. His remains were found more than a year and a half later in the Stanislaus National Forest.
Prior to his arrest, Woody was recorded by his girlfriend detailing his involvement in the case.
In the recorded conversation, Woody talks about the killing, stating in reference to Kauffman that "when he jumped over that f***ing fence that was his last jump." He also states Kauffman was shot and claims he committed the killing on his own. He also states Kauffman was stealing from his lawyer. After a back and forth over the name of the lawyer Woody whispers "Carson" then says "Frank Carson. There it is."
The recording also includes Woody describing disposing of a body by feeding it to pigs.
A few weeks after the recording was made, Woody was arrested and charged with Kauffman's murder. During an interview with investigators after his arrest, Woody disavowed many of the statements he made in the recording, including the statements that he killed Kauffman.
When the other defendants were arrested in August 2015, Woody sat down with investigators again and told them an account of what happened the night Kauffman was killed and it differed from what he said on the recording in some areas. Woody claims he and Daljit Atwal arrived at Carson's property to find Kauffman and Baljit Athwal fighting. He states Baljit Athwal was responsible for shooting Kauffman and that he helped bury the body in a field next to the Pop N' Cork, before helping to move it to a ravine in Mariposa County, where it was later discovered.
Woody has also told the investigator that prior to Kauffman's disappearance, Carson, Baljit Athwal, and himself all met at Carson's law office in Modesto. Before going inside the office Woody was instructed to turn off his cell phone and leave it in the vehicle with Baljit Athwal's phone. At this meeting, Woody said Carson told them he had some business he wanted them to take care of and gave them a list of names. Woody told Jacobson Carson was being cryptic, but the point was made that he wanted to send a clear message to the people on the list.
Following his testimony, Woody will be sentenced to prison for seven years and four months, according to the district attorney's office.