Who Killed Korey Kauffman? : UnresolvedMysteries

Who Killed Korey Kauffman? : UnresolvedMysteries
December 12, 2020 0 Comments


Stanislaus County, positioned in California’s Central Valley, is probably finest recognized for the 2002 disappearance and homicide of Laci Peterson and her unborn little one. Laci’s brilliant smile and tragic loss of life captivated thousands and thousands in countless information tales: an entirely sympathetic sufferer of a dishonest, murderous husband.

Ten years later Korey Kauffman was a 26 12 months outdated Turlock resident who made his dwelling as a metallic scrapper. Turlock is simply south of the place Laci Peterson lived and died in Modesto. Korey’s disappearance in late March of that 12 months was not talked about in even native newspapers, in sharp distinction to the media firestorm that descended on the county within the days following Laci’s disappearance. The felony proceedings that adopted, nevertheless, obtained in depth regional information protection – although for the reason that case by no means caught the eye of nationwide media most have nonetheless by no means heard of Korey Kauffman. I thank everybody who takes the time to learn this prolonged write-up; I consider this case is fascinating and want it had gotten the nationwide consideration it deserved.

Word from the writer: I’ve included particulars referring to a) the proof provided by prosecutors and protection that I (objectively) discovered most related and b) some anecdotes from the proceedings that I felt (objectively) illustrated the generally circus-like environment within the courtroom. Extra particulars may be discovered within the linked sources on the backside of this write up. Although I’ve developed an opinion on the end result of this case I’ve achieved my finest to place my very own bias apart and embrace each inculpatory and exculpatory proof pretty.

The Sufferer

Korey Alan Kauffman was born July 10, 1985 to folks Anthony Kauffman and Trena Richardson. He had a brother, sister, and 4 stepbrothers. Korey struggled with substance abuse and had a string of arrests for minor offenses relationship again to 2005. Korey stored in common contact with members of the family and on the time of his disappearance lived along with his stepfather.

“My brother wasn’t excellent; he bought into hassle and made errors…He had an enormous coronary heart and lots of people who beloved him…if we wanted him, he could be there for us,” his sister Amber wrote to reporters in an e-mail shortly after Korey’s physique was found. Korey’s father Tony launched a public plea for info shortly thereafter, studying partially, “My son Korey was child. He had a form and mild soul, not an angel by any means, however particular person. Somebody who lots of people knew and beloved. Korey was a giving particular person who with[out] query would assist anybody in want.”

The Disappearance

Korey Kauffman was final seen alive the night of March 30, 2012 at his buddy Michael Cooley’s Lander Avenue residence in Turlock. No less than one witness mentioned that Korey left with the intention of stealing irrigation pipe from a neighboring property owned by distinguished native legal professional Frank Carson.

Korey’s household quickly grew involved after they hadn’t heard from him. “He wouldn’t have simply not contacted anybody” his sister Amber later mentioned. They hung flyers along with his image round city, and because the months handed they started to concern the worst.

The Physique

On August 19, 2013 hunters discovered human stays within the Stanislaus Nationwide Forest in close by Mariposa County, roughly 90 minutes away from Turlock. Investigators processing the scene positioned a bullet slug, main them to deem the loss of life “suspicious”. Additional proof recovered on the scene indicated that the stays had been that of Korey Kauffman; his identification was later confirmed the next October. Because of the situation of the stays, Kauffman’s actual reason for loss of life may by no means be conclusively decided.

First Arrest

On March 6, 2014 Turlock resident Robert Lee Woody was arrested for the homicide of Korey Kauffman. Woody was charged the next week with homicide, conspiracy, and a particular enhancement for mendacity in wait. Paperwork filed by the District Lawyer’s workplace alleged that Woody had three unnamed co-conspirators. Two weeks after Woody’s arrest the presiding choose introduced he would recuse himself from Woody’s case if the three different folks recognized within the felony grievance had been charged. Intriguingly, he additionally mentioned he believed all of his judicial colleagues would additionally recuse themselves.

For over a 12 months Woody gave various accounts to authorities and others. At occasions he denied his involvement altogether. At occasions he admitted to killing Kauffman alone. He even informed his then-girlfriend, who was secretly recording him on the behest of investigators, that he not solely killed Kauffman but in addition dismembered him and fed his stays to pigs. It wasn’t till over three years after Korey’s loss of life, and greater than a 12 months after Woody’s arrest, that he started implicating others in Kauffman’s homicide.

Extra Arrests

On August 13, 2015 eight folks had been arrested for his or her alleged roles within the circumstances that led to Korey Kauffman’s loss of life.

The next people had been arrested for homicide and conspiracy prices:

  • Frank Carson (Carson, a felony protection legal professional, had represented his now co-defendant Robert Lee Woody in felony proceedings associated to a cost of receiving stolen property in January 2012. As talked about above, he owned a property neighboring Michael Cooley’s residence, the place Kauffman was final seen alive)

  • Georgia Geanette DeFilippo (Frank Carson’s spouse)

  • Baljit Athwal (who along with his brother owned the liquor retailer the place co-defendant Robert Woody labored. Athwal and his brother had made buddies with many legislation enforcement officers, and had transformed a room in the back of their retailer right into a bar space the place they held events attended by legislation enforcement officers. Athwal had additionally been represented by Frank Carson in felony and civil circumstances in 2008).

  • Daljit Atwal (Baljit Athwal’s brother and co-owner or the aforementioned liquor retailer. The brothers spell their surnames otherwise. Word from the writer: for the rest of the write up I’ll generally check with Daljit and Baljit as “the At(h)wal brothers”.)

  • Walter Wells (a former California Freeway Patrol officer who had misplaced his job on the division a couple of months earlier than his arrest for what CHP officers mentioned was “unrelated misconduct”; Wells was additionally a buddy of the At(h)wal brothers and had invested of their enterprise)

The next people had been arrested for conspiracy to commit against the law and accent:

  • Christina Anne DeFilippo (Carson’s stepdaughter, who lived on the property the place prosecutors alleged Kauffman was killed)

  • Scott J. McFarlane (a California Freeway Patrol Officer and Kauffman’s subsequent door neighbor; he was acquainted with the At(h)wal brothers, Woody, and Quintanar)

  • Eduardo Quintanar Jr. (additionally a California Freeway Patrol Officer who was acquainted with McFarlane, Woody, and the At(h)wal brothers)

All eight suspects denied any involvement and entered not responsible pleas at their arraignments. Carson and the At(h)wal brothers weren’t granted bail and Wells was unable to make his $10 million bail. All 4 remained jailed for nearly your entire preliminary listening to. The remaining defendants had been launched on bail.

Inside weeks of the arrest of Carson and the others Robert Lee Woody determined to cooperate with authorities. Except for admitting his personal position in Kauffman’s loss of life, Woody implicated a number of of his co-defendants.

Preliminary Hearings

On October 13, 2015 testimony started within the preliminary listening to for Frank Carson and 5 of his co-defendants accused within the Korey Kauffman homicide case. Barbara Zuniga, a choose from Contra Costa County within the east Bay Space, presided because of the recusal of all Stanislaus County judges.

Prosecutors asserted Frank Carson had been upset over repeated burglaries at his 5-acre Ninth Avenue property. They sought to show Carson had been the ringleader in a conspiracy to cease the burglaries by “making an instance” of anybody caught trespassing. Carson believed (and witnesses testified that) burglars had been accessing his property via a gap in a fence he shared with Michael Cooley; it was at Cooley’s home that Korey Kauffman was final seen alive. Textual content messages between Carson’s spouse and his stepdaughter, the prosecutor argued, confirmed Carson was intent on coping with the thieves on his personal, reasonably than calling police.

“The thought of Frank being concerned in one thing like that is completely absurd. This can be a man who makes $250 an hour and he’s going to whack some clown behind some stolen pipe. I don’t suppose so,” considered one of Carson’s attorneys informed reporters shortly after his arrest. Each contained in the courtroom and in statements to native reporters, Carson’s attorneys blasted the prosecution towards him as politically motivated, noting that within the years main as much as his arrest he had filed a civil lawsuit towards the county alleging District Lawyer Investigator Steve Jacobson had accosted him in a courthouse hallway, introduced prices of jury tampering towards the identical investigator together with a chief prosecutor (the contempt of courtroom prices each confronted for the allegations had been in the end dismissed) and unsuccessfully ran for District Lawyer in an acrimonious marketing campaign towards DA Birgit Fladager.

Early within the proceedings considered one of Carson’s attorneys was briefly faraway from the courtroom by bailiffs when he tried to apprehend District Lawyer Investigator Steve Jacobson (the investigator Carson had sued) in a residents arrest. The legal professional argued that since Carson was suing him it was unlawful for Jacobson to hold a firearm within the courtroom. California Penal Code prohibits legislation enforcement officers from carrying a firearm in a courthouse when they’re social gathering to a case (in California, District Lawyer Investigators are sworn peace officers). After the legal professional was eliminated Carson’s chief protection counsel requested the choose to delay proceedings, saying their authorized workforce was unprepared to maneuver ahead with the case with out all attorneys current. Because the civil lawsuit Carson filed was a separate case and the investigator was not a celebration to the felony matter at hand, the investigator was not barred from being armed within the courtroom, Choose Zuniga dominated. She then allowed Carson’s chief protection counsel to deliver the ejected legal professional again within the courtroom, the place he politely greeted her earlier than quietly sitting down subsequent to the opposite protection attorneys. The listening to continued as deliberate.

The rest of the preliminary listening to dragged on for a complete of 18 months, one of many longest in state historical past. Throughout that report setting listening to prosecutors had been repeatedly admonished by Choose Zuniga for a sequence of admitted failures to reveal exculpatory proof, which the District Lawyer’s workplace described as attributable largely to being understaffed. Walter Wells was launched in mid-December 2016 when his bail was drastically decreased after prosecutors dropped the homicide cost towards him, telling reporters they had been not pursuing a homicide conviction because of a latest ruling made on “sure proof”. Wells nonetheless confronted felony prices of conspiracy to hinder justice and appearing as an adjunct after the alleged homicide was dedicated. Days later a visibly indignant Choose Zuniga ordered the remaining defendants (Frank Carson, Daljit Atwal, and Baljit Athwal) launched on their very own recognizance after prosecutors admitted that that they had discovered additional probably exculpatory proof that will not have been disclosed to the protection. “I don’t get it,” Choose Zuniga informed prosecutors. “I’ve by no means seen a case of this magnitude…the place the District Lawyer’s Workplace has made so many errors with respect to discovery.” Choose Zuniga additional mentioned that the District Lawyer ought to have been in courtroom herself that day to reply for the repeated failures of her workplace to supply probably exculpatory proof to the protection.

After closing arguments Choose Zuniga issued her determination for every defendant, noting this had “not been a simple case to resolve”. Her ruling noticed prices dropped towards Frank Carson’s spouse, Georgia DeFillipo and stepdaughter, Christina DeFilippo. The choose famous there was no proof both lady was concerned in Kauffman’s loss of life “even with the low commonplace of proof in a preliminary listening to….there’s simply nothing there,” Zuniga mentioned of the largely textual content message proof prosecutors launched – which dated as many as 4 years earlier than Kauffman disappeared – that implicated both lady within the conspiracy. Frank Carson, Walter Wells, and the At(h)wal brothers had been all ordered to face trial.

Preliminary hearings for the opposite defendants had been held individually, although Choose Zuniga additionally presided. Inside months of Kaufman’s disappearance investigators had recorded a dialog between Eduardo Quintanar and Daljit Atwal. Within the dialog Atwal expressed concern somebody might put trackers on his automotive; Quintanar informed him to fluctuate his path to and from work and to have Woody verify his automotive on daily basis, utilizing a mirror to verify beneath. When Quintanar was later questioned by investigators in regards to the dialog he informed them it was a joke.

Witnesses informed investigators that Scott McFarlane (who was Kaufman’s neighbor) described Kauffman as a thief and mentioned that “he needed to go.” McFarlane had additionally informed investigators he particularly recalled seeing Kauffman “pedaling” residence at 6 a.m. Sunday, April 1, 2012. In response to investigators, nevertheless, Kauffman’s bike had been left at Michael Cooley’s home on March thirtieth, and remained there till legislation enforcement retrieved it throughout their investigation. Prosecutors alleged that this assertion was made in an effort to “muddy the timeline” of Kauffman’s homicide.

On October 24, 2017 Choose Zuniga dismissed all prices towards Quintanar because of lack of proof. The next 12 months one other choose dropped the costs towards McFarlane, whom Zuniga had initially ordered to face trial. The day after McFarlane’s prices had been dismissed the District Lawyer’s Workplace refiled the identical obstruction cost, primarily beginning your entire case over for him. All prices towards McFarlane had been ultimately dismissed in October 2019.

The Trial

Frank Carson, Daljit Atwal and Baljit Athwal had been ordered to face trial collectively. Walter Wells, who was not charged with homicide, would stand trial individually. Opening statements within the homicide trial started April 19, 2018.

Prosecutors sought to show that Frank Carson was criminally liable for the loss of life of Korey Kauffman, although they didn’t argue that he had been on the scene. Underneath California legislation, a conviction for first diploma homicide solely required the prosecution to show the defendants did one thing to “facilitate, promote, encourage, or instigate” a victims loss of life. A sequence of witnesses testified to a variation of two tales: that Frank Carson had threatened them, generally with loss of life, when he suspected them of burglarizing his property; or he tried to recruit them to look at his property with the directive that they had been to function exterior the legislation to catch any trespassers. These witnesses, nevertheless, had been topic to credibility assaults on cross examination as they had been virtually all convicted criminals, and a few had made offers with the DA for leniency in their very own felony prices in alternate for his or her testimony.

Prosecutors employed DNA skilled Gary Clayton Harmor to investigate the bullet discovered with Kauffman’s physique. Harmor testified that upon evaluation of the bullet he discovered DNA traces from Kauffman in addition to two different contributors: a “minor contributor”, for which there was inadequate DNA to make a comparability, in addition to a “main contributor”. Harmor was in a position to exclude the entire defendants when he in contrast their DNA to that of the most important contributor. He additional testified that even after Stanislaus County investigators had been notified that the entire defendants had been excluded they by no means requested he submit the pattern to the nationwide DNA database maintained by the FBI (CODIS, or the Mixed Offender DNA Indexing System) for comparability. Absent that request, he testified, he couldn’t start the method of submitting the DNA, although he believed the pattern contained ample info to satisfy CODIS standards.

When Robert Woody took the stand he testified that he had been with Daljit Atwal the day Kauffman was murdered; that they had checked in to an area fitness center collectively that day and had been on the liquor retailer the brothers owned the evening Kauffman was killed. Late within the night they left the shop for Frank Carson’s property, the place they discovered Baljit Athwal within the midst of a wrestle with Kauffman. Daljit Atwal then joined the skirmish, and the 2 brothers started violently assaulting Kauffman with each their palms and toes as he tried in useless to protect himself within the floor. Woody claimed that whereas the skirmish was nonetheless in course of he turned away to depart when he heard a gunshot. He additional testified that the one one of many three armed with a gun was Daljit Atwal.

Woody alleged that he and the At(h)wal brothers then introduced Kauffman’s stays to quite a bit subsequent to the comfort retailer, the place Woody lower off Kauffman’s fingers and toes earlier than wrapping his physique in a tarp and burying him along with his severed fingers and toes in a shallow grave whereas Baljit Athwal stood watch. Whereas they buried Kauffman, Daljit Atwal reopened to retailer to keep away from rousing the suspicion of patrons.

Woody recalled that about three weeks after the homicide Baljit Athwal informed him that they needed to transfer Kaufman’s physique. After excavating Kaufman’s stays they drove in Athwals truck to the Stanislaus Nationwide Forest, the place they reburied Kauffman, as soon as once more along with his severed fingers and toes. Woody testified he then burned Athwals truck to hide any proof.

Although the protection attacked Woody’s credibility because of his felony historical past, admitted drug use, inconsistent statements to investigators, and the leniency provided by prosecutors in alternate for his testimony, some components of his account may very well be corroborated. Athwal’s truck was discovered burned in an orchard roughly one month after Kauffman disappeared (Athwal had reported the truck stolen from his residence that morning; Woody had admitted to burning the truck lengthy earlier than he implicated any of his co-defendants in Kauffman’s homicide, although he initially informed investigators he had achieved so at Athwal’s behest in an effort to gather the insurance coverage cash). Furthermore, Baljit Athwal’s cellular phone knowledge confirmed his telephone had pinged off a tower inside 8 miles of the place Kauffman’s physique was positioned in Mariposa County, although this knowledge was captured June 26, 2012 – two months after Athwal’s truck was indisputably burned and Kauffman’s stays had allegedly been reburied. Although the cell knowledge didn’t correspond with the date of both the arson or the reburial, the day Athwal’s telephone pinged in Mariposa county was simply at some point after he, his brother, and Woody had been contacted for the primary time by legislation enforcement concerning Kauffman’s disappearance.

In alternate for his testimony, Robert Woody obtained a plea deal and was sentenced to seven years and 4 months in jail for his position within the homicide of Korey Kauffman.

The protection held that the prosecutors concept relied on the testimony of a sequence of thieves and drug addicts. As well as, the protection argued, Woody’s testimony that he solely heard one shot fired and that Kauffman was not sporting a coat when he was killed was inconsistent with forensic proof. Kauffman’s stays had been discovered with each a coat and a T-shirt, and the coat had two holes that seemed to be from gunshots and one gap that raised the likelihood that Kauffman had been stabbed within the armpit. Moreover, the protection argued, Woody’s testimony that Kauffman lay in a shallow grave close to the At(h)wal brothers liquor retailer for almost a month was problematic – nobody reported smelling something that may point out the presence of decomposing stays, together with the various legislation enforcement officers not charged within the case that used the shop as a “hangout” off obligation.

The case went to the jury 14 months after the trial started. Jurors deliberated for 2 days earlier than coming to a verdict on June 28, 2019. The jury of 10 girls and a pair of males discovered all three homicide defendants not responsible of all prices.

The Remaining Defendant

When ordering ex-CHP officer Walter Wells to face trial for his alleged involvement within the homicide of Korey Kaufman, Choose Zuniga mentioned she had thought extra in regards to the proof towards him than any of the opposite defendants. Finally, she mentioned, she ordered him to face trial partially due to Wells’ friendship with the At(h)wal brothers, and – extra importantly – Wells’ and Kauffman’s cellular phone knowledge confirmed each telephones had been within the neighborhood of each other not less than 3 times within the days after Kauffman’s disappearance, lending credence to the prosecutors concept that Wells had Kauffman’s cellular phone in his possession after Kauffman disappeared.

Proceedings towards Carson and the At(h)wal brothers concluded whilst Walter Wells’ case was nonetheless delayed by pretrial motions. More and more pissed off with prosecutorial delays, Choose Zuniga commented at a listening to “I’ve by no means seen a case plagued with so many issues. Quite a lot of them attributable to your workplace, ma’am,” addressing the Chief District Lawyer prosecuting the case.

After his personal acquittal Frank Carson joined Walter Wells’ authorized workforce in November 2019. The next month the District Lawyer’s workplace filed a movement to dismiss all prices towards Walter Wells “within the curiosity of justice.” When requested by reporters why the costs had been abruptly dropped towards Wells the District Lawyer’s workplace had no remark.


Korey Kauffman’s household was emotional after Carson and the At(h)wal brothers had been acquitted; although they largely prevented feedback to reporters a number of members of the family had been noticed screaming obscenities as they left the courtroom. In all of the years they waited for justice for Korey the one particular person held liable for any position in his loss of life was sentenced to simply over seven years in jail.

All the defendants who confronted prices associated to Korey Kauffman’s homicide (except for Robert Woody) have filed multimillion greenback lawsuits towards the Stanislaus County District Lawyer’s workplace. As of this writing the entire lawsuits are nonetheless pending.

Eduardo Quintanar and Scott McFarlane had been initially positioned on administrative depart from their jobs as California Freeway Patrol officers after their arrests; each had been later fired. In Could 2019 the State Personnel Board, (which oversees California authorities human assets) concluded a assessment of the California Freeway Patrol’s determination to fireplace Eduardo Quintanar. In response to Quintanar’s legal professional the assessment said “the CHP’s self-discipline was far too heavy-handed… Officer Quintanar ought to return as an officer with the CHP.” Quintanar’s legal professional mentioned CHP was refusing the Personnel Board order; representatives from each companies declined to publicly remark. It’s unknown if the firings of Scott McFarlane and Walter Wells are underneath Personnel Board assessment. Although CHP representatives said Walter Wells’ termination was because of unrelated misconduct, Wells’ federal lawsuit alleges his firing was associated to the case (CHP opened an inner investigation towards Wells in April 2015, the month after investigators had first served a search warrant at Wells’ residence).

Frank Carson died in August 2020 on the age of 66, simply 14 months after his acquittal. Carson’s personal lawsuit alleged that native officers violated his civil rights within the prosecution and cited well being issues that developed in the course of the 17 months he spent in county jail. Carson died after struggling a medical emergency whereas receiving dialysis; he had gone into kidney failure whereas incarcerated. Within the days after his loss of life Carson’s attorneys informed reporters the case will grow to be a wrongful-death motion as a result of the prosecution broken Carson’s well being.

Prosecutors have by no means disclosed how a lot it price California taxpayers to pursue prices towards the 9 defendants, eight of whom had been by no means convicted.

Questions For Dialogue

  • Did the jury get it unsuitable when discovering any or the entire three defendants who stood trial not responsible?

  • Did the jury get it proper as a result of there wasn’t sufficient proof to convict the defendants?

  • Ought to some or the entire defendants prevail of their lawsuits towards the DA?


Timeline: A glance again via the years within the homicide case of Korey Kauffman

A breakdown of the proof towards 9 defendants

Detectives search clues after stays of lacking Turlock man are present in Stanislaus forest

Obituary for Korey Kauffman

Father makes plea for info in sons loss of life

Suspect arrested in murder of long-missing Turlock man

Potential hyperlinks to Stanislaus County courthouse develop in Kauffman murder case

Prosecutors formally cost Modesto protection legal professional and seven others in Turlock man’s loss of life

Affidavit lays out concept of Korey Kauffman killing

Investigators say friendships led to CHP involvement in Kauffman homicide

Choose denies bail for Modesto legal professional, two Turlock liquor retailer homeowners accused of homicide

Defendant speaks of Turlock man’s slaying, supplies grotesque particulars in latest ‘revelation’

Preliminary listening to scheduled for 8 defendants in Korey Kauffman homicide case

Quite a few weird twists in homicide case towards Modesto protection legal professional

Choose reduces bail for legal professional’s spouse in Kauffman homicide case

Choose drops contempt-of-court complaints towards Stanislaus prosecution investigator, chief prosecutor

Witness: Kauffman was going to Carson property on evening he vanished

Choose warns prosecution about proof in Korey Kauffman homicide case

Former CHP officer, co-defendant to Frank Carson in homicide case, launched on bail

Choose slams DA’s Workplace errors in Carson case as ‘completely unacceptable’

File-setting homicide prelim concludes with Carson, 3 others held for trial

Carson’s spouse says she, daughter had been wronged. Now, they need county, cities to pay.

Cleared ex-CHP officer says District Lawyer’s ‘witch hunt’ ruined his profession

DNA skilled finds no match between defendants, fired bullet in Kauffman homicide case

Prosecutor particulars testimony of witness who says man died on Frank Carson’s property

Protection: Alleged homicide motive towards Frank Carson primarily based on profession felony’s lies

Not responsible: Jury returns verdict in trial for Frank Carson, 2 others in Kauffman homicide

‘They took these officers’ careers’: CHP veteran tied to homicide plot ordered again on power

Ex-CHP officer accused in homicide case has a brand new lawyer: his former co-defendant

Acquitted Modesto legal professional Frank Carson seeks thousands and thousands of {dollars} in damages

DA drops prices towards ex-CHP officer Walter Wells, final defendant in homicide plot

Former CHP officers, protection lawyer sue, saying prosecution left them in monetary damage

Longtime Modesto protection legal professional and onetime defendant Frank Carson dies at 66

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