She Shouldn’t Be In Court, But…
by Bruce McEwen, April 26, 2017
Kelli Lynn Adams of Boonville was held to answer last week on several counts of harassing Suzan Topales, also of Boonville. The most serious charge alleges that the troubled Boonville woman threatened to assault Ms. Topales with a cane sword in front of the Mosswood Market on November 8th, last Election Day.
Suzan Topales is best known locally as a gifted seamstress who works in the Farrer Building. Her creative talents are much in demand. Ms. Topales has been tormented by Ms. Adams for some time now, and already had a civil restraining order in place against Adams stemming from an incident where Adams brandished a baseball bat at Ms. Topales and Robert Rosen as they stood on the porch of their Boonville home chatting with a friend.
The morning of the cane sword episode at Mosswood, Ms. Topales had paused in front of the busy coffee shop and bakery to exchange pleasantries with a friend, when Adams suddenly appeared and, raising the cane sword as if to strike Ms. Topales, screamed threats at the terrified woman. Ms. Topales ran to her shop in the rear of the building to call the police. Adams, whose mental health has steadily deteriorated over the years, and whose hostility for the pleasant and inoffensive Ms. Topales began for no discernible reason more than two years ago.
Deputy Clegg took the stand in the Kelli Lynn Adams case last week and told the court he was dispatched to Boonville on November 8th at approximately 11:30 in the morning, responding to a report of a protective order violation and possible assault. When he arrived he contacted Suzan Topales at her custom sewing and draperies shop in the Farrer Building and spoke with her for about 15 minutes, wherein she told him Ms. Adams had approached and threatened her twice that morning.
Deputy Gregory Clegg then went down Highway 128 a short distance and found Adams, who took him to where she’d left her weapon, a sword cane, in front of the old Methodist church, and she was placed under arrest.
On Cross-examination, Adams’s lawyer, the Alternate Public Defender Patricia Littlefield, was having difficulty with the victim’s place of work. She wrinkled her nose and asked if it was a fabric shop of some kind. She seemed to find fabrics and sewing somehow distasteful. She herself hadn’t even bothered to mend the broken strap on her hand-tooled leather briefcase — which reminds me that Ms. Topales has an old-fashioned saddlemaker’s Singer sewing machine in the hall outside her shop for fixing leather — although on the inside she has the modern models (hint hint).
Clegg: “It’s her place of work, Ma’am.”
Littlefield (wrinkled her nose again, not liking being called Ma’am.): “And she told you she’d been outside on the sidewalk talking to a friend?”
Clegg: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Littlefield: “It was outside her work — was it a co-worker, then, this alleged friend?”
Clegg: “I believe she said friend, Ma’am.”
Littlefield: “Did you ask for a name of this friend?”
Clegg: “No, Ma’am, I did not.”
Littlefield: “So no follow-up?”
Littlefield: “Well, Ms. Topales said she was on the sidewalk, what about in between?”
Clegg: “In between what, Ma’am?”
Littlefield: “In between the sidewalk and the shop, of course!”
Clegg and Littlefield looked at one another with mutual distrust of each other’s sanity, for a moment.
Clegg: “There is no in between, Ma’am.”
Littlefield made a little high-pitched gasp of incredulity. Deputy DA Elizabeth Norman came to the rescue and explained that Boonville is really quite modern in the downtown area and the sidewalks really do have finished cement all the way to the storefronts, just like in downtown Ukiah.
Littlefield grinned gamely, like she was having her leg pulled, and said to Clegg, “So there was no follow-up on this friend or co-worker?”
Littlefield: “And you’re telling me she [Topales] had been standing outside on the sidewalk for several minutes talking to this friend or co-worker [she couldn’t seem to get it out of her head that it really was a friend, not a co-worker], before she turned and saw my client, Ms. Adams?”
Clegg: “That’s correct, Ma’am.”
Littlefield (her nose permanently wrinkled by now): “And my client had a walking stick that may possibly have had a knife hidden in it?”
Clegg: “Yes, Ma’am. It was a cane, and the handle unscrews, and there’s a blade attached to it, about two feet long.”
Littlefield: “I thought you said on direct it was about three feet!”
Clegg: “The cane overall is about three feet in length, the sword only about two.”
Littlefield: “But it had the cap on it at the time, didn’t it?”
Clegg: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Littlefield: “And Ms. Adams took you to it in front of the church?”
Clegg: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Littlefield: “And it was not hidden?”
Littlefield: “So when you first met with Ms. Topales, how long after that did you contact my client?”
Clegg: “Approximately 10 minutes. She wasn’t far.”
Littlefield: “Was she on foot?”
Clegg: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Littlefield: “Did you actually measure it to see if it was really three feet long?”
Clegg: “No, but that’s approximately the length.”
Littlefield: “Do you still have it?”
Clegg: “It was booked into evidence, Ma’am.”
“Excuse me,” Judge Ann Moorman said. “The blade itself was only two feet, and you have to unscrew the handle to take it out?”
Clegg: “That’s correct.”
Moorman: “And Ms. Topales didn’t say it was unscrewed, did she?”
Moorman: “So, do you describe it as unlawful — what is a cane-sword?”
Clegg: “Any cane or walking stick with some kind of blade that comes out and can be used as a weapon.”
Moorman: “Where did you learn that?”
Clegg: “At the Police Academy.”
Moorman: “And it doesn’t matter if it’s pulled out or unscrewed?”
Clegg: “No, Ma’am.”
Suzan Topales was called.
DDA Norman: “Where do you live?”
Topales: “In Boonville.”
Norman: “And how long have you lived there?”
Topales: “For about 11 years.”
Norman: “Do you know Kelli Adams?”
Topales: “Yes I do.”
Norman: “Do you see her in the courtroom today?”
Topales: “That’s her seated right in front of me in an orange jumpsuit.”
Norman: “May the record reflect the witness has identified the defendant, your honor?”
Moorman: “She has.”
Norman: “Do you have a stay-away order in place against Ms. Adams?”
Topales: “I do, yes. It used to be a criminal restraining order, now it’s a civil.”
Norman: “I would ask the court to take judicial notice that the witness has an active restraining order.”
Moorman: “Could you please read the number?”
Topales: “Just the numbers, or the letters too?”
Moorman: “Read the whole thing.”
Norman: “Can you tell us what happened on November 8th of this year?”
Topales: “Yes. I was on the porch with a friend talking when Kelly came down Mountain View Road swinging a baseball bat in her hand and started screaming at us, my boyfriend and I, calling me a bitch and threatening to kick my ass, and Robert got up and she started screaming at him and threatening him, so I went in the house and called the sheriff.”
Norman: “What did Ms. Adams do?”
Topales: “She went across the street to Shorty’s — her grandfather’s — and I heard a loud crash, and when I looked later the mirror on his truck had been struck with, with something.”
Norman: “Was that all that happened that day?”
Topales: “No. When I went to work, about 11:30 and was on the sidewalk, on my way to the Post Office, Kelli came up behind me with an object in her hand, a walking stick, and raised it up over her head and said she was going to kick my ass.”
Norman: “What did you do?”
Topales: “I went back in to my shop — through the store in front of my shop — and I called the sheriff again.”
Norman showed the witness some pictures of the sword-cane and she said it looked like the one.
Topales: “I was concerned that it was more than a walking stick. I had seen that kind of thing before, with a sword hidden inside it, and I was worried about it.”
Norman: “Was there a further reason why you feared for your safety?”
Topales: “Yes. She said she was going to kick my ass and called me all kinds of horrible names.”
Norman: “How far away from you was she?”
Topales: “About two or three feet — I’m not sure exactly, but I felt sure she could hit me with it.”
Norman: “Any further problems that day?”
Norman: “Now, earlier in the day she’d threatened you?”
Norman: “And you had this restraining order?”
Topales: “Yes, she’d threatened me before, that’s why I had the restraining order.”
Norman: “On this day, November 8th, did you fear for your safety?”
Topales: “Yes I did.”
Norman: “Nothing further.”
Littlefield: “Who did you say you were on the porch with?”
Topales: “My boyfriend Robert Rosen and another friend.”
Littlefield: “And where was Ms. Adams?”
Topales: “She was coming down Mountain View — our place is the corner property.”
Littlefield: “But her grandpa’s place is across the street, isn’t it?”
Littlefield: “You said she went back there — is that where she came from?”
Topales: “Well, that’s where she usually stays, but no, she came down Mountain View and crossed to our side.”
Littlefield: “And you were out on the sidewalk going to the Post Office when you were supposed to be at work, weren’t you?”
Littlefield seemed to think if she couldn’t get her client off, she could at least get the complaining witness fired from her job, not realizing Suzan Topales is self-employed.
Topales: “Yes. I had stopped to talk to a friend, and I’d just said good-bye and paused a moment to consider whether to stop in the café to see another friend, when I turned back to go to the Post Office, and Kelli was there.”
Littlefield: “Didn’t you say she was four or five feet away?”
Topales: “I think it was closer than that.”
Littlefield: “How close did she come to you when you were at the house?”
Topales: “She came right up to the fence, which is only about 20 feet away.”
Littlefield: “That was in the alleged first event, supposedly with this baseball bat, how close was that?”
Topales: “About 20 feet.”
Littlefield: “Now, outside your shop, is there a sidewalk?”
Littlefield tried again to discredit the sidewalk, like the lawyers in Gulliver’s Travels who could care less who stole the cow, but were adamant about the particulars of the empty field where it had been grazing. An amazing amount of time and effort went into this pointless (except to frustrate and confuse a witness) game, and I quit taking notes until it was over.
Littlefield: “Didn’t you tell Ms. Adams she needed to leave?”
Topales: “No. I didn’t say that. I told her she needed to leave me alone.”
Littlefield: “What happened then?”
Topales: “I made a bee-line back to the store, and Kelli made a ruckus, screaming as she walked away.”
Littlefield: “And the cane was fully intact when you saw it, correct?”
Littlefield: “How long was Kelly out in front of your house before she went back to her grandfather’s?”
Topales: “Under a minute.”
Littlefield: “And you didn’t hear anything out of her mouth before you turned and saw her on this alleged sidewalk?”
Topales: “No — I was very surprised to find her there.”
Littlefield had no further questions, but she recalled Deputy Clegg and established that Ms. Topales had not mentioned the baseball bat, and that she’d told him Adams was four to five feet away, not two or three, and that she didn’t properly estimate the distance from her house to her shop (about three blocks, or a quarter-mile) — Littlefield characterized this as proof Topales was not a credible witness.
Ms. Littlefield then told the court her client had been on hold in the jail with a 1368 status (mentally incompetent to stand trial) until she’d been back on her meds long enough to be “restored to competency,” as they call it, when Dr. Kevin Kelly gave her the green light to go ahead with the prelim, and now that she was all right the charges should be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Judge Moorman disagreed. She held Adams to answer on all the charges (see PART I) and ordered her back on May 4th for arraignment on the information.