It was the 911 tape that burned Glenn Hughes at his preliminary hearing last year. It also seared everyone in court that day who heard it.
A man was being beaten to death as the woman watching the beating narrated the blow-by-blow into the phone as she simultaneously tried to pull the guy doing the beating off his doomed victim.
The murder trial of Mr. Hughes has been delayed as the opposing attorneys argue about how much of the 911 tape a Mendocino County jury should hear. The 911 CD has to be redacted (read “edited”) to the satisfaction of both parties, the DA and the public defender. That's not easy, but good luck trying to edit out the horror of this call.
In the spirit of brinkmanship, both parties waited until the last possible moment to submit their redacted versions of the appalling recording, waiting until the Friday before the trial is to begin.
Last Thursday, Deputy DA Matthew Hubley gave Deputy Public Defender Carly Dolan a ream of printed copy paper, much of it color photo prints, as part of the prosecution’s evidence. Another grove of trees had to be harvested before Mr. Hubley could deliver transcripts of the redacted 911 CD — one for each member of the jury, one for the defense, one for the judge, and one for every other party concerned. Then, Ms. Dolan would submit her redacted version, along with a complementary number of transcripts.
Facebook could save enormous swaths of woodlands by just tweeting these parties, even the jurors; they all have the techy gadgets necessary. But that’s not the way it’s done.
Of course, defense attorney Ms. Dolan had to have some time to go over all this material before responding with her own version of the redacted CD, plus her objections to certain photos, so the matter was continued on Friday — this time in Judge John Behnke’s court because Judge Ann Moorman was absent.
A murder trial is a big, expensive production, and in hopes of saving the county a great sum of trouble and money, a plea offer was made, and there was the subtle suggestion of a last-minute resolution.
“A sliver of a chance,” Matt Hubley assured the judge.
Behnke said, “The court will be available at any time today.”
The place was packed with people waiting for justice in other matters, and it looked to be a long afternoon of slogging away through a bog of cases which, added up, are the sum total of a social order in free-fall collapse.
The possibility of the defense agreeing to a last-minute offer evaporated when Deputy Public Defender Carly Dolan picked up her file and left the courtroom. Mr. Hughes apparently wanted his trial. He looked mildly dazed, but that expression is not a unique feature of Glenn Hughes’ countenance. He always seems surprised at his predicament. And judging from his healthy girth and pleasant disposition, he hasn’t gone off his feed or lost any sleep over the event that can put him in prison for the rest of his life.
It has been two years since the murder of Jose Madrid at the Hidden Pines Campground south of Fort Bragg early on New Year’s Day, 2011. Hughes was a campground host who lived in a trailer with his girlfriend Susan Brown. Jose Madrid was camped at Hidden Pines, set up in a tent he shared with his girlfriend Shannon Wilson. The two couples had become friends, and after a New Years Eve barbecue, Hughes and Madrid headed out to the Welcome Inn in downtown Fort Bragg, driving off in Madrid’s vehicle at about 8pm.
Madrid returned to Hidden Pines without Hughes. Madrid had left his companion at the bar about 11pm when Hughes is alleged to have become truculent and, it seems, had shoved Madrid and generally behaved in a manner that prompted Madrid to drive back to Hidden Pines without Hughes. Hughes had had to walk back to the campground — about three miles — and he'd apparently walked back in a towering rage, and when he arrived he dragged Madrid out of his tent and commenced beating and kicking him to death.
A three-mile walk is not much of an inconvenience, no matter the weather. I walk that distance to work and back every day with the temperature frozen at 28°F when I pass the digital thermometer and clock on State Street. So I tend to wonder: what’s wrong with Glenn Hughes? However, unlike the pending Wilkinson murder trial (he's the young Willits man accused of dragging grandpa to death), and the Norbury murder trial, which was recently concluded, the defense is not pleading insanity. Maybe it’s the culture that has gone crazy; the car culture, that is, where anyone seen walking, even down the lane to get the morning paper, is thought to be out of their mind.
Ms. Wilson had called 911 while trying to pull the enraged Hughes off her boyfriend Madrid, but was unable to stop Hughes. By the time the first responder, Deputy Richard Munoz, arrived at the campground about a quarter after 1am, Hughes was walking away from his deadly handiwork.
Deputy Munoz tried in vain to revive Madrid, but he was gone. Detective Andrew Porter arrived at about 3am to begin the investigation. Porter went to the trailer where Glenn Hughes and Susan Brown lived. Ms. Brown, Detective Porter said on the stand, didn’t know anything about the assault.
Det. Porter: “She was asleep when I contacted her. She said the victim and the defendant were good friends. They had had a barbecue the night before; they’d gotten drunk and went to town.”
Mr. Hubley: “They went to a bar?”
“Do you know the time?”
“Tennish.” (The bartender said it was more like 8pm.)
“How far is the campground from Fort Bragg?”
“Probably about a half-mile.” (Which it is from the campground to the city limits; it's another couple of miles to the bar.)
“She told you both men left to go to the bar?”
“Yes, and that around 11pm the car returned without Hughes. She told me that he told her”—
Ms. Dolan: “Objection, hearsay.”
Mr. Hubley: “It’s not being offered for truth of the matter, your honor.”
Judge Moorman: “I’ll allow it.”
Det. Porter: “He told her Hughes had pushed him so he left Hughes at the bar. Then sometime later Hughes came back and was upset and angry because he’d been left.”
Hubley: “Nothing further.”
Ms. Dolan: “You met with Ms. Brown inside the trailer?”
“When you approached, were the lights on?”
“Did it appear that she’d been asleep?”
“And she told you she’d taken a sleeping pill?”
“And she told you Mr. Madrid returned at 11?”
“That’s what she estimated, but she said she couldn’t be sure. She said they’d both been drinking quite a lot and was surprised they hadn’t been arrested.”
“And when Hughes returned, he appeared to be pretty angry?”
“Now, she also told you she was pretty out of it, too, and that she’d been drinking?”
“No. I’d have to check my report, but I don’t believe that’s in there.”
“Thank you, Detective. No further questions at this time.”
Detective Dustin Lorenzo, the lead investigator in the case, was called.
Mr. Hubley: “Did you interview the defendant, Mr. Hughes?”
Det. Lorenzo: “I did, yes.”
“Did you first check him for injuries?”
“Yes. He had a small laceration on the palm of his hand.”
“How did he appear?”
“Intoxicated and agitated.”
“Was he aggressive?”
“His shirt was torn.”
“Did you contact Shannon Wilson?”
“I did, yes.”
“You interviewed her — where?”
“At the Fort Bragg substation, yes. I asked her to recount the last couple of hours. She said she’d consumed some alcoholic beverages — cocktails, she said, and went to sleep at about 5pm. When she woke up she contacted Ms. Brown and found the men had gone to the bar. She ate dinner with Ms. Brown and went back to bed. Later, Mr. Madrid returned and described Mr. Hughes as being left because he was being a jerk. She went back to sleep and hears — a short time later — Hughes shouting ‘Where is that motherfucker?!’ Then the tent was ripped open and Madrid was dragged out by the collar. Hughes threw Madrid to the ground and began kicking him in the head and upper torso. She called for help.”
Hubley: “Did she try to stop the beating?”
Lorenzo: “Yes. As she described it, the first kick to the head knocked him unconscious, and she tried to shield him after that, by putting herself between Hughes and Madrid.”
“Did Madrid fight back?”
“Not at all. He was unconscious from the beginning.”
“How long did this last?”
“Right up to the point law enforcement arrived.”
“Did she get in it?”
“Yes. She had bruising all over her arms and forearms, a mark under her eye — which later became a black-eye — and welts on her cheeks and ears.”
“Were you able to find out which bar they went to?”
“Yes. The Welcome Inn.”
“How far is that from the Hidden Pines campground?”
“About three miles, I guess.”
“Did you talk to William Lee, the bartender at the Welcome Inn that night?”
“Yes. He was familiar with them. He said they arrived about 8pm, Madrid was buying the drinks, and he last saw them around 9:30 when it got busy.”
“Did he observe any tension between them?”
Ms. Dolan: “When you first contacted Mr. Hughes, did you ask him to get out of the patrol car?”
“Did he smell of alcohol?”
“Was the smell strong?”
“Notice anything else?”
“He was very agitated.”
“Did he talk to you?”
“He yelled at me, mostly.”
Ms. Dolan spent some time trying to pin down how much drinking the two women had done, but the amount was unclear. Then she returned to the beating.
Dolan: “Now, Ms. Wilson told you she did not think Mr. Madrid fought back?”
Lorenzo: “No. She said he did not.”
Dolan: “He was ‘unconscious from the first kick’ — were those your words or hers?”
Dolan: “Nothing further.”
Judge Moorman: “Does counsel wish to argue?”
Hubley: “The People reserve argument for the time being.”
Dolan: “Defense submits, for purposes of the prelim.”
Moorman: “The court finds the People have presented sufficient evidence for Count One, murder in the first degree with malice and intent aforethought in the murder of Mr. Madrid. And I’ll also find sufficient evidence was presented for Count Two, assault with force likely to cause great bodily harm to Ms. Wilson.”
It is to be presumed that both sides will present plenty of argument in the trial this week.
The Mill Creek Peeper
Patrick O'Brien has a serious meth prob. When he gets high on the stuff the mere sound of female voices arouses him to the point of doing insane things — like peeping through windows and masturbating — or trying to. But the meth apparently causes erectile dysfunction and frustration ensues. So then O'Brien tries the doors to see if he can get in; when that fails, he tries the windows.
This behavior, understandably, frightens the people whose houses he tries to see into and break into. It especially terrifies single mothers living in rural areas like Ukiah's Mill Creek Road.
And doubly terrified a certain Ms. Turri and her children who live on Mill Creek Road. Last Thursday she told Judge John Behnke that ever since an incident on September 19th she and her kids have lived a life under siege.
“Every night when we get home I have to search the house to make sure this person hasn't gotten into the house while we were gone. I search everywhere someone could possibly hide, wondering what I might be overlooking. Then, after I've made sure none of the door or window locks have been tampered with, I have to close off all the windows with heavy curtains so he can't see us — our shadows — moving around in the house, I turn up the TV to where we can hardly hear ourselves think so he can't hear us talking, since our voices seem to arouse him to the point he looses all control…”
The statement of precautions was quite lengthy and detailed. The lives of these people had been disrupted to the point they had lost their peace of mind, their freedom.
An especially poignant moment occurred when Ms. Turri described how her pre-adolescent daughter was unable to sleep for fear O'Brien would come out of a closet or out from under her bed to drag her out and murder her.
Ms. Turri testified that she'd had been obliged to go out and buy a gun; how she had to bring all the kids together each night and advise them that she was putting the bullets in the gun in case the prowling penis appeared, and she described how she warned her children to stay away from the weapon.
It may strike the reader as unreasonable that such a state of affairs should be allowed to fester for four months. But the charges were listed in the complaint simply as prowling, a misdemeanor. In addition, the officer who arrested O'Brien, Deputy Orell Massey, has been on leave of absence for injuries he sustained in a patrol car collision caused by a speeding young woman. In fact it is Deputy Massey who, according to Public Defender Linda Thompson, who is to blame for this whole crime.
“If he hadn't gone to the complaining victim and told Mrs. Turri that my client was aroused by their voices and trying to masturbate as he peered through the window — that, apparently, is when the little girl spotted him and screamed — we would never have had all this inconvenience on the part of the Turris. It is all law enforcement's fault. My client was merely high.”
Inconvenience? Merely high?
“Yes, well, people sometimes commit crimes when they are high,” Judge Behnke blandly observed.
Deputy DA Heidi Larson pointed out that O'Brien had also tried to let himself into the house by trying first the doors and then the windows.
“It was all blown out of proportion,” Ms. Thompson insisted.
A tweeker is whacking off outside the window and then he tries to get into the house. These facts are out of proportion to what?
Ms. Larson wanted the roving penis put away for the maximum term — a year in jail, to give the Turri family some much needed time away from nightly fear. But the judge’s hands were tied, as the cliché goes, due to the charges being filed as a misdemeanor and the absence of Deputy Massey.
“The court doesn't have the ability to craft a long prison sentence in this case, however strongly I may be leaning in that direction.”
Larson asked for criminal protective orders and the judge readily granted the request.
Thompson did not object.
A “rush order” was put on stay away orders and court flunkies scurried out to get them. Defendant O'Brien was ordered to remain in the courtroom until they were signed, sealed and served on him. This took almost an hour and the Turri family waited as well, to make sure it was all a done deal.
Judge Behnke told O'Brien, with a hint of wishful thinking in his voice, that if O'Brien ever went near the Turri residence again he could, and probably would, be shot dead by Ms. Turri. But he also advised O'Brien that in the event he survived such an encounter, he would most certainly go to jail for the 365 days at a very minimum, for violating the CPO (criminal restraining order); and that he was not to go anywhere near Mill Creek Road for the next three years, at which time the CPO would very likely be extended for another five years, on and on.
After the Turri family left, and enough time had elapsed that they would not have to see Patrick Timothy O'Brien in their rear-view mirror, O'Brien was told he could now leave the courtroom. ¥¥
“Justice” here in this land of exceptionals.