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Mendocino County Today: October 12, 2012

Giants celebrate after beating the Cincinnati Reds three games in a row in Cincinnati against the odds on Thursday to win the National League Division Playoff and move on to the National League Pennant series against Washington or St. Louis

COURT TO RULE on evidence of possible motive in Norbury murder trial. — Evidence bearing on murder suspect Billy Norbury's relationship with his estranged wife and their divorce will show his motive for allegedly killing his Redwood Valley neighbor if the judge on Thursday deems it admissible in the ongoing trial, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster said in court Wednesday. Norbury, 34, faces a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun to kill Andrews, 30, on the night of Jan. 24.  “It will show motive … and malice aforethought,” Eyster told Mendocino County Superior Court Judge John Behnke, who set the hearing on whether to allow the evidence for Thursday morning. The evidence in question includes two voicemails Norbury left for his estranged wife Feb. 20 and 21, just days before he allegedly shot and killed Jamal Andrews, along with a conversation overheard on Feb. 17 and a statement Norbury's wife wrote in a request for a restraining order she filed Feb. 8. The statement, according to Eyster, referred to a Feb. 24 newspaper article concerning her husband's arrest in Andrews' death. “‘He used to accuse me of having something to do with a guy up the road’,” Eyster said, reading the words of Norbury's wife, Brittany Norbury, in court before the jury was seated in the courtroom Wednesday morning. Eyster argued that those words, coupled with the angry voicemails and the overheard conversation, indicate that the shooting was part of Norbury's efforts to intimidate his wife, who had filed for divorce in February 2011. “This woman was being abused and intimidated by the defendant,” Eyster said. “What effect does it have on a person who has been accused of having an affair with someone up the road when their spouse goes up the road and kills (that person)?” In question is whether the evidence is protected as privileged communication between a married couple. Behnke said he could allow the evidence on the record “if I'm convinced it was part and parcel with a program to intimidate Brittany Norbury, or if other evidence supports a finding that the statements weren't intended to be confidential.” Norbury's Ukiah defense attorney, Al Kubanis, questioned Andrews' live-in girlfriend, Miranda Mills, Wednesday morning during his continued cross-examination about whether Andrews had been faithful. Kubanis asked Mills if she had checked Andrews' cell phone for “phone numbers you did not recognize.” Mills said she had not. “I trusted him; I didn't need to,” she said, later redirected by Eyster. Kubanis asked if “women or irate boyfriends” had called the house Mills and Andrews shared, and Mills said there had been no such calls. Kubanis had also asked Tuesday, when Mills took the witness stand, if other women had been hanging around Andrews when they met at a reggae concert where he was a performer in 2004. Mills said there hadn't been. Asked by Kubanis Tuesday if she knew Brittany Norbury or knew what she looked like, Mills said she did not. Mills also said on the stand, at Kubanis' prompting, that there had been marijuana plants growing on the property where she and Andrews lived the summer prior. She said she didn't know how many when asked if there were 29 plants or fewer growing. “I didn't look; I was pregnant,” Mills said. Questioned about an indoor grow and whether she had spoken with a deputy about it the night of the shooting, Mills said she didn't remember. Also on the witness stand Wednesday were three Mendocino County Sheriff's Office employees who responded the night of the shooting to arrest Billy Norbury and investigate. Deputy Donald Scott said he had knocked on Norbury's bedroom door and immediately entered, finding Norbury lying down with his eyes closed. Scott said in the ensuing conversation, he saw that Norbury had chewing tobacco in his mouth and that he didn't appear drowsy. Deputy Luis Espinoza said he found an all-terrain vehicle at the Norbury home that was warm to the touch on the cold night, and saw wet mud on the vehicle, along with fresh tire tracks from Road B to the driveway. Deputy Jeremy Verdot showed the jury the firing action of the 30-30 Winchester rifle found leaning against a wall at the Norbury home that night, believed to be the murder weapon. He saw a gray film and smelled gunpowder at the end of the rifle's barrel, indicating the gun had been recently fired, he said. Three 30-30 shell casings were found outside Andrews' gate, witnesses testified Tuesday. (— Tiffany Revelle. Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

THOSE SHELL CASINGS matched Norbury’s rifle, the presumbed murder weapon, according to a state criminologist who testified later on Thursday.

NORBURY’S ESTRANGED WIFE to take stand in his murder trial Thursday. — The jury in the murder trial of Billy Norbury will hear recordings Thursday afternoon of threatening phone messages he left for his estranged wife, along with other testimony concerning their divorce, after Mendocino County Judge John Behnke deemed the evidence admissible Thursday morning. Norbury, 34, faces a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun to kill his Redwood Valley neighbor, Jamal Andrews, 30, on the night of Jan. 24. “He killed him because he thought there was something going on between (his wife) Brittany and Jamal,” District Attorney David Eyster, who is prosecuting the case, said of what he believes the evidence will show. Norbury left two voicemails on a cell phone belonging to his wife, Brittany Norbury, Feb. 20 and 21, just days before he allegedly shot and killed Andrews. Along with those recordings, the jury will also hear testimony from Brittany Norbury and her friend about a Feb. 17 conversation between the estranged couple in which Billy Norbury allegedly asked Brittany if she knew “Jamar up the road,” calling him an “N-word” and threatening to “kick his f-word ass,” Brittany said on the stand Thursday morning, during a hearing outside the jury's presence to determine whether to admit the evidence. Billy and Brittany Norbury were in the middle of a divorce at the time the statements were made, and Billy Norbury's Ukiah defense attorney, Al Kubanis, argued that the evidence was protected as privileged communication between a married couple. After the nearly two-hour hearing -- including a brief break during which paramedics were called to the courtroom -- Behnke ruled that the evidence was admissible because the couple's relationship was over. Brittany Norbury began rubbing the sides of her head and breathing heavily while Kubanis was questioning her regarding whether or not she had called her husband while they were separated. She said she couldn't hear anything when Eyster asked her if she needed to take a break. Behnke called for a break, and Brittany Norbury collapsed while a Victim-Witness advocate and another person were escorting her from the stand. Jamal Andrews' brother, Josh Andrews, who is a paramedic, stood up from the gallery and came to Brittany Nobury's aid. Behnke cleared the courtroom, and paramedics responded to the courtroom to treat Brittany Norbury. She resumed the stand about 45 minutes later to finish her testimony, and was called again later to clarify a statement she made in her request for a restraining order that Billy Norbury believed “everything was tapped with listening devices.” She will resume the stand Thursday afternoon before the jury. (— Tiffany Revelle. Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

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A READER suggested that we look at a footnote in the DA’s report before concluding that Supervisor Hamburg had no basis for his remarks about the Bassler case at the September 11 Board of Supervisors meeting which we discussed in yesterday’s post. The footnote (#20) does give some basis for Hamburg’s remarks about what Melo may have known when he went out to the woods where Bassler was growing poppies.

FOOTNOTE #20 to the DA’s report: “Melo’s August 25, 2011 email to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy Martin reads, as follows: ‘Jon: Thank you. Is he in custody now? I walked for six hours yesterday on the Hawthorne logging roads, overgrown for sure, and found nothing. I have an appointment at 8:00 AM, Saturday, to meet with Ian Cheney (sic) to get a better location. (It also occurs to me that this may be our guy in the Scout Camp incidents.) Jere.’ Melo’s ‘Scout Camp incidents’ comment refers to burglaries that had been reported as having happened at the Boy Scout camp on the Noyo River between June 23, 2011 and June 28, 2011. [Two months earlier.] The camp is surrounded by Hawthorne Timber property. A person or persons unknown had broken into buildings and stolen bedding items, small hand tools, food, alcohol, other items commonly used when camping. One of the breached padlocks had been shot off one building by a high-powered rifle. Deputy Martin told Melo about this incident and Melo, with the help of camp staff, later located the majority of the stolen items hidden under brush on a trail near the camp. A brown sleeping bag, folding chair, and other small items, however, were not recovered. The same day that Melo helped recover some of the stolen property from the brush, a man, identified only as a skinhead wearing camouflaged clothing and carrying an AK-47 rifle, was seen by railroad personnel walking on the railroad tracks within a quarter mile of the Boy Scout camp. In turn, Melo advised Deputy Martin that he believed there may be a survivalist camp in the area so Deputy Martin, acting on that tip, conducted an unsuccessful fixed-wing overflight looking for such a camp the following day.”

SO HAMBURG’S comments about what Mr. Melo may have known before looking for Bassler were supported by the DA’s report via the footnote. Whether this means that one can conclude that Mr. Melo knew the risk he was taking by going out to where he was subsequently killed by Bassler, however, is still a matter of conjecture. Our apologies to Supervisor Hamburg for overstating the case against his Bassler comments.

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