Robert Lee Woody, the only man who has placed himself at the scene of Korey Kauffman's murder, began his testimony last week in the preliminary hearing for six of the defendants charged in the Turlock man's 2012 death.
Woody was the first person to be arrested and charged with Kauffman's murder. He agreed to a no contest plea of voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy to obstruct justice and arson in exchange for his testimony against the remaining defendants.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office has charged defense attorney Frank Carson and wife Georgia DeFilippo of Turlock, Pop N' Cork owners Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal of Ceres and former California Highway Patrol Officer Walter Wells with murder. Charged with being accessories after the fact and conspiracy are former CHP officers Scott McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar as well as Carson's stepdaughter Christina DeFilippo. McFarlane and Quintanar are not part of the preliminary hearing. All of the remaining defendants have entered not guilty pleas.
The district attorney's office's case against Carson is built on an ongoing feud he and neighbor Michael Cooley were having over stolen property. Carson suspected Cooley of stealing his property, or allowing others access to Carson's property in the 800 block of Ninth Street. At the time Coley was living at a house on Lander Avenue that abutted Carson's.
Kauffman was last seen by Cooley on March 30, 2012 as he left the Lander Avenue home to go to a property on Ninth Street. The DA's office claims Kauffman was headed to Carson's property to take some irrigation pipes that had been left out as "bait" to catch the thieves.
Woody has stated that Baljit Athwal caught Kauffman on Carson's property and that he was fighting him when Woody and Daljit Atwal arrived at the Ninth Street property. Woody said Daljit Atwal joined in the fight and that the two were beating Kauffman, who was on the ground trying to get away, "like a cat trying to get away from a dog."
Woody said he tried to break up the fight and when he was unsuccessful he turned to leave, which is when he heard a shot. When he turned back around Kauffman was dead.
Woody testified that he came up with the idea of moving the body and that he was helping the brothers "because he was involved in it at that point."
Kauffman's body was wrapped in a tarp and buried in a shallow grave in a side yard next to the Pop N' Cork on East Avenue in Turlock, according to Woody. He also testified the toes and fingers were cut off and placed in a black bag that was buried with the body.
Woody testified that Baljit Athwal said they had to relocate the body after investigators came to the store asking about Kauffman's disappearance. Woody said he dug up the remains and he and Baljit Athwal and Woody's girlfriend (now deceased) placed it in the back of Baljit Athwal's truck and drove it to the foothills. Woody said he didn't know at the time where they were headed. He stated Kauffman's remains were left in an area away from a dirt road and that the fingers and toes were scattered around in the brush.
In August 2013 hunters in Stanislaus County Forest in Mariposa County found Kauffman's skull. Later in the investigation Woody directed investigators to the spot where Kauffman's remains were left. Woody testified that the day after the remains were left in the forest he took Baljit Athwal's truck and drove it to a remote spot and set it on fire. He also said rags used to mop up Kauffman's blood were burned as well. Woody said Baljit Athwal recorded a video of the truck burning and planned to use the insurance money to pay off credit card debt. Baljit Athwal reported the vehicle stolen.
Woody also testified that Carson asked him to look into the thefts on his property, particularly in relation to Cooley. Woody stated Carson told him not to make any problems with Cooley because he (Carson) didn't want to be under investigation.
Woody said he was approached at the store by men who said they were investigators from Carson's office who wanted to talk to him. The interview never happened because the men drank alcohol and then officers arrived and Woody was told by the brothers to leave the store.
While Woody is a key witness to the prosecution's case, he is also problematic for them. Over the course of the investigation he told different versions of Kauffman's death and his involvement and the defense team seeks to capitalize on this.
Prior to his arrest, Woody was recorded by his girlfriend detailing that when Kauffman "jumped over that f- - - ing fence that was his last jump." He also stated Kauffman was shot and claims he committed the killing on his own. Woody also stated Kauffman was stealing from his lawyer. As the couple tried to come up with the name of the lawyer, Woody whispered "Carson" then clarified with, "Frank Carson. There it is."
The recording also includes Woody describing disposing of the body by feeding it to pigs.
Martha Carlton-Magana, who is representing Baljit Athwal, argued that it was investigators who first insisted Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal were involved in the murder and that Woody ran with their idea.
"The only thing he has been consistent in is what the officers wanted him to agree to," said Carson's defense attorney Percy Martinez.
Woody is expected to continue his testimony through the week.