When news broke that eight more people had been arrested in connection with the death of a 26-year-old Turlock metal scrapper, many were surprised to learn the suspects included three California Highway Patrol officers.
Immediately the questions came rolling in about how these three men fit into the investigation and what roles did they play in the alleged conspiracy. According to the investigators assigned to Korey Kauffman's murder case, it all came down to the company they kept.
In the 326-page affidavit filed with the arrests, investigators claim Pop N' Cork owners Baljit and Daljit Athwal of Ceres cultivated friendships with members of law enforcement and that it was through these friendships that the three law enforcement members became entangled in an alleged criminal conspiracy.
The affidavit states "the Atwals (sic) use the Pop N' Cork and the relationships they foster there for their own advantage. They seek out persons with ties to law enforcement who can help them and use those relationships in an attempt to circumvent and obstruct the justice system."
Investigators said the Athwal brothers had converted a room at the back of their East Avenue store into a full bar area and it was in this room that they held private parties, many strictly for law enforcement. At a previously held bail hearing, defense attorney Timothy Rien referred to it as a "cop bar" that was routinely visited by law enforcement. District Attorney Investigator Steven Jacobson testified that during the investigation they learned members of the CHP, Turlock Police Department, Merced County Sheriff's Department, and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department all visited the store.
Former CHP Officer Walter Wells is one of six defendants facing murder and conspiracy charges for the death of Kauffman. In addition to Wells, defense attorney Frank Carson, his wife Georgia DeFilippo, Pop and Cork owners Baljit and Daljit Athwal, and Robert Lee Woody have all been charged with Kauffman's murder. Arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to obstruct justice and being accessories were Christina DeFilippo and CHP officers Scott McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar.
Everyone except Woody was taken into custody on Aug. 14. Woody has been in custody since his arrest in March 2014. Christina DeFilippo, McFarlane and Quintanar are all out on bail, while the others remain in custody.
In a statement released on Aug. 14, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow described the news of the arrests as a sad day for the CHP.
"The allegations themselves are extremely disturbing to a professional law enforcement organization and are a deep blow to the soul of the law enforcement profession itself," Farrow said. "The entire Department and I are appalled at the mere though that one former and two current employees played any role in the incident. What our Department has learned of the allegations regarding their involvement has truly hurt the men and women of this organization."
Kauffman's last night
Kauffman's friends, Michael Cooley and Eula Keyes, have told investigators Kauffman was at their house on Lander Avenue on the night of March 30, 2012. They last saw him as he left to go to a home in the 800 block of Ninth Street in Turlock. According to them he had plans of stealing some irrigation pipe that he had seen on the property. The property belonged to Carson, who had been growing increasingly frustrated and agitated by a string of thefts at his property over the years, according to the investigators.
Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office Investigator Steve Jacobson testified at a recent bail hearing that Woody told him details about the murder of Kauffman. Woody claims Baljit Athwal found Kauffman on Carson's property and called his brother and Woody to help him. Woody told the investigator that when they arrived at the property he saw Baljit Athwal and Kauffman fighting and that Kauffman was getting the better of him. Woody said Daljit Athwal joined the fight and together the two brothers were beating Kauffman severely around the head and stomach. Woody claims he tried to stop the fight and when he couldn't, he turned to leave, which is when he heard a gunshot. He told the investigator when he turned back around Kauffman was dead and the two brothers were standing over him.
Woody said the decision was made to bury Kauffman in a field at the Pop N Cork and it was during this burial that Wells first enters the case. Woody said he was digging the grave while Baljit Athwal stood watch and Daljit Athwal reopened the East Avenue store. Not long after reopening and while Woody was digging the grave, Wells arrived at the store. Jacobson's testimony as to Woody's interview never said Wells entered the side yard and its unknown if he knew a body was being buried in the side yard while he was at the store.
Well's cell phone records
Investigators claim that Wells would later be in possession of Kauffman's cell phone and would use it to try and derail the investigation.
In the criminal complaint, Wells is accused of having possession of Kauffman's cell phone from March 30, 2012 to April 16, 2012, and that he used deceitful acts with the phone to thwart the investigation.
Investigators obtained Kauffman's cell phone records and saw that he frequently used it for incoming and outgoing calls and texts. His last outgoing call was at 10:16 p.m. March 30, 2012. Cellular telephone expert Jim Cook examined the data and offered his opinion, which is included in the affidavit. He stated there were a number of times when Kauffman's cell phone would be turned on and would receive incoming calls only, all short in duration and no outgoing calls. The affidavit states these service logs were pinging off towers that either covered Wells' residence, or his own phone was pinging off the same tower within the same time frame.
The affidavit states Kauffman's cell connected to the southwest facing sector of a Cricket cell site and had two incoming calls at 3:49 p.m. and 4:54 p.m. on March 31, 2012. The cell site covers Wells' residence and investigators say he was there and had call and text activity between 4:52 p.m. and 5:08 p.m. on March 31, 2012.
The investigators believe this is a telling piece of evidence because they suspect Kauffman was already deceased at this time and buried next to Pop N Cork, and yet his phone was logging activity in the area of Wells' home and his cell phone.
The cell site recording the activity does not cover Kauffman's home, Pop N Cork, Carson's property, or Cooley's residence.
Investigators said they have gathered the cell phone records that show Kauffman and Wells' cell phones were in the same vicinity around the same time on three different occasions in April.
Investigators interviewed Wells on March 7, 2015, at his home. During the interview Wells told the investigators he was close friends with the Athwals and was upset that investigators were focused on the brothers and felt that had been mistreated.
On March 24, 2015, investigators served a search warrant at Wells' home in Turlock. The investigators took several electronic devices into their possession, including a computer that Daljit Athwal had logged onto, according to the affidavit. Investigators are awaiting the forensic examination of the devices.
In April 2015 Wells became the subject of an internal affairs investigation and on June 19, 2015, his employment with the CHP came to an end. He had been assigned to the Merced Area CHP for seven years.
Quintanar & McFarlane
For the conspiracy allegations, investigators state in the affidavit that the three men tried to use their roles in the CHP to impede the investigation. The criminal complaint charging them with conspiracy states the men used their law enforcement knowledge to direct the Athwals on investigative techniques and ways they could derail them.
On July 9, 2012, investigators recorded a conversation between Quintanar and Daljit Athwal. Daljit Athwal says he is concerned someone may put trackers on his car, so Quintanar tells him to park it in the back fenced area. He also tells him to have Woody check his car every day and use a mirror to check underneath. If Woody is unsure how to do the check, Quintanar says he will show him how to do it. Quintanar also suggests Daljit Athwal vary his route to and from the store and home. When Quintanar was later questioned by investigators about the conversation he said it was said as a joke.
Days after the conversation investigators served a search warrant at the Pop N' Cork, in which they found firearms belonging to Quintanar. On the same day of the search, Quintanar drove to the Pop N Cork and answered a call from Daljit Athwal. Daljit Athwal was leaving the sheriff's office and his cell phone records indicate he was headed south when he placed the call to Quintanar, but a few minutes into the conversation he changed direction and started heading north, according to the affidavit. Investigators believe Quintanar was warning Daljit Athwal that investigators were still at the store and he should stay away if he didn't want to speak to them.
After the search, Quintanar told Daljit Athwal to not talk to any law enforcement. Quintanar himself refused to talk to investigators until after his own house was searched in March of this year. During the search investigators took ammunition and electronic devices.
Quintanar was interviewed by investigators the same day his home was searched. He told them he had never heard about Kauffman until after he was served with paperwork regarding an internal investigation into his conduct at Pop N Cork. He told the investigators he only had one other contact with the Athwals after Pop N Cork was searched on July 15, 2012, but his cell phone records showed he had other conversations with them, according to the affidavit.
McFarlane was a neighbor of Kauffman's and investigators have statements from others confirming that McFarlane described Kauffman as a thief and that "he had to go." He later told investigators he specifically recalled seeing Kauffman "pedaling" home at 6 a.m. Sunday, April 1, 2012. The affidavit states investigators knew this to be a false statement because Kauffman's bike had been left at Cooley's house and never retrieved.
The affidavit states "investigators believe this is a contrived statement and not just a misstatement of fact on the part of McFarlane to muddy the timeline of Kauffman's murder."
On July 17, 2012, McFarlane placed a phone call to a Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputy investigating Kauffman's disappearance. The call was made two days after a search warrant had been served at Pop N Cork. McFarlane wanted to know if he should stop hanging around the store given everything that had been happening. The deputy told McFarlane "to be an adult and make his own decision," according to the affidavit.
McFarlane hung up on the deputy, but called again moments later. He told the deputy Woody had told him of storage containers being moved off of Carson's property and that Woody made a statement to him that, " whoever killed Korey Kauffman had done it right" and no one would ever find his body. He said he was told this by Woody after the search warrant had been served.
Investigators found the timing of McFarlane's call suspicious in that Woody had just been picked up at his East Avenue home near Pop N Cork. The investigators believe McFarlane was notified by somebody at Pop N Cork about Woody being picked up and that the call to the deputy was McFarlane trying to conduct damage control.
Quintanar had been a CHP officer for 12 years and was working out of the Modesto area office when he was put on administrative leave. McFarlane had been with the department for 13 years and was working out of the Merced area.
Both Quintanar and McFarlane have an arraignment scheduled for Sept. 14, along with the eight others arrested in the case.
Other officers named
The three CHP officers were not the only members of law enforcement to be investigated or questioned in the case. The investigators spoke at length with a Stanislaus County bailiff whose husband had been hanging out at Pop N Cork.
A confidential informant told investigators that Dennis Martinez was hanging out at the Pop N Cork and was serving as a shield for Daljit Athwal. The informant said Martinez would stop people from asking Daljit any questions about the case and that he would pat people down in the store.
Dennis Martinez is married to Adrian Martinez, who was employed as a bailiff at Stanislaus County Superior Court. On three occasions in 2014 Adrian Martinez used a law enforcement database to search for Baljit and Daljit Athwals names, as well as her husband's name.
Investigators also found cell phone records of her cell number calling Pop N Cork days after the database searches were conducted.
When questioned by investigators Adrain Martinez said she called the store looking for her husband and denied ever using the database to search for their names.
The affidavit states investigators believed Adrain Martinez was being "dishonest and made several false statements regarding this investigation." The affidavit states the information was forwarded to the sheriff department's internal affairs division for a follow-up.