62-year old Janette Krigian lives west of Laytonville on Branscomb Road and, as a tough guy from Oakland recently discovered, “the lady has a lot of balls.” This is what D’Wan Porter-Walker, 20, of Oakland, said to his partner after he pointed a gun at Ms. Krigian and said, “Give us all your drugs and money.”
In answer, she said, “You need to get the fuck out of here,” and attacked Mr. Porter-Walker and his partner.
“I jumped out at them,” Ms. Krigian said without a hint of bravado.
With help from James Richardson, 49, of Discovery Bay, D’Wan Porter-Walker “half-carried, half-wrestled, and half-dragged” her [Krigian] back into her trailer and was pistol-whipping her with the gun. “Bam, bam, bam, like that,” Krigian said, when her son-in-law, John Hawthorne, came running up with a friend and saw her bloody face — then Porter-Walker turned the gun on Hawthorne, and everybody took off running.
“I felt like they were chasing me,” Ms. Krigian said.
“Did you see your son-in-law, John Hawthorne or his friend, Casey Riggs?”
“No, and that’s probably because my glasses got broken when they were dragging me back in the trailer.”
Mr. Hawthorne said he thought they were chasing him, when Mr. Riggs passed him.
“Were you trying to draw them away from your friend, Mr. Riggs?”
“No, I was running because I thought they were after me.”
A third member of the robbery team, Johnny Lee Walker III, 40, also of Oakland, was waiting out on Branscomb Road with the getaway car, a dark green Ford Expedition, which Mr. Walker had inadvertently parked right in front of a surveillance camera, then he got out and presented his face to the camera for a nice picture, in case there was any doubt.
Johnny Walker must have rehearsed this performance as an audition for America’s Dumbest Criminals several times to get it down so pat that even the license plate number on his Expedition was clearly legible.
In any case, Walker’s job was to go up to the trailer and case it out by asking about a car for sale parked out on Branscomb Road. Ms. Krigian told Walker he should go up to the main house and talk to her son-in-law about the car, then she called her son-in-law to tell him someone was on the way to see him. During the call, the other two bandidos, D’Wan Porter-Walker and James Richardson, showed up at Krigian’s trailer, and that’s how the son-in-law, John Hawthorne, knew his mother-in-law was in trouble: He heard them tell her to hang up over the phone. So he asked a friend who was there to come with him, because it sounded like his mother-in-law was being robbed.
The testimony was somewhat confused in parts. Ms. Krigian drew a diagram of the property with the main house at the top by Branscomb Road, and her fifth-wheel trailer farther down. She drew lines for driveways and a trail, and answered questions about trees, shrubbery and brush from the defense lawyers, Public Defender Linda Thompson and Alternate Public Defender Patricia Littlefield.
When three different witnesses tell slightly different stories, or versions of events, the defense attorneys imagine all sorts of possibilities for making a liar out of one or another of the prosecution’s witnesses. But people often get confused in traumatizing situations and sometimes honestly remember things differently.
Ms. Thompson had Krigian put a red X on the diagram of the place she ran to.”
“It was rainy and overcast that day?”
“It was overcast. I don’t remember it raining.”
”So you called John [Hawthorne] to tell him there was somebody asking about the car for sale, and sent someone up front? Did you watch the person go?”
“I can’t say I actually watched him.”
“How long was it before the second knock on the door.”
“Maybe five minutes.”
“And you opened your door and saw the two black males about 15 feet away?”
“And from 15 feet you saw a gun?”
“It was small and silver in color?”
“You saw that the gun was pointed at you — do you recall which hand he held the gun with?”
“I don’t. It’s pretty shocking to have someone point a gun at you when you are in your own home.”
“You had your phone in your hand — did you yell into the phone, Call 911?”
“He said he wanted your drugs and money?”
“And you actually attacked him?”
“What happened to your phone?”
“I had it in my hand until they took it away. I found it the next day under the truck.”
“Then you ended up back in the trailer — how’d you do that?”
“It might have been a little lifting, a little pushing, a little dragging.”
“Were you struck?”
“I was pushed back in the trailer and went down on my back after being pistol whipped a couple of times, and then he had it pointed right at my face.”
“Do you recall whether either of the men were wearing gloves?”
“I don’t believe they were.”
“Were they wearing knit caps or hats?”
“One of them may have been.”
“What happened to your phone?”
“They took it away from me.”
“When they saw it was open.”
“Before they put you back in the trailer?”
“At some point they both left the trailer?”
“Yes. I ran.”
“While they were still in the trailer?”
“Was your son still in there?”
Ms. Krigian’s son is an invalid with Down’s syndrome. He had just been brought home from a therapy session in Redway by a driver who apparently neglected to lock the gate when he left the property.
“Yes. I was trying to lure them out. I guess that was my logic.”
“And they followed you?”
“At some point you saw your son-in-law and yelled to him to call 911?”
“Yes, I screamed to him.”
“Did you happen to see Casey Riggs?”
“No, I can’t say I did.”
“Did you seek medical attention for your injuries?”
“Yes, the paramedics cleaned me up and I went down and identified them with Deputy Logan.”
Ms. Littlefield took her turn on cross-examination.
“Were you on the phone with John for five minutes would you say?”
“Maybe more like two or three minutes.”
“How long does it take to get to John’s house from your trailer, if you are walking?”
“Three minutes, maybe.”
“You could drive though?”
“How long would that take?”
“Maybe two minutes.”
“The BMW that was for sale, how long had it been parked out on Branscomb Road?”
“A month, maybe.”
“Could you see it from your trailer?”
“How far was it?”
“Maybe a quarter-mile.”
“How long was the encounter you had with the alleged robbers?”
“Maybe 20 seconds.”
Ms. Littlefield had the witness draw a diagram of the area. Then she went over everything again, in greater detail.
“How long was it before you went down to where the men were being held in the car?”
“About three hours.”
“Where was it?”
“Just before Willits, on a turnout. It was dark and my glasses were ruined.”
“Were you seated in the car?”
“Did you ever get out?”
DA David Eyster who was prosecuting the case himself called his next witness, John Hawthorne.
On November 20th Hawthorne was at home. A friend, Casey Riggs, had come by to pick up one of the kids that were in the house playing video games. Hawthorne and Riggs were in the shop when the frantic call from the mother-in-law came. Hawthorne heard a man’s voice tell her to hang up the phone and he asked Riggs to go with him to check on her.
“When we got to the trailer, we split up. He went on one side of the carport, and I went on the other side.”
“Did you see any people?”
“Yes, I saw a black male, and he was saying to me, ‘Come here, come here.”
“Do you see him?”
“No, he’s not in the courtroom.”
Mr. Richardson had posted bail but failed to appear.
“Did you do as he said?”
“No. I said, F-you, and stepped around to see the door to the trailer.”
“Could you see in?”
“Yes. My mother-in-law was inside laying on the floor and bleeding from her face.”
“Was she alone?”
“No. A black male was holding a gun to her face. Then she saw me and yelled, Call 911. The black male then pointed the gun at me and I took off running.”
“What did they do?”
“They chased after me. I was trying to call 911 and running at the same time.”
“Did you get through?”
“How far did they chase you?”
“All the way out to Branscomb Road where they got into a car that stopped to pick them up.”
“What happened to Casey Riggs?”
“When he saw me running, he took off and passed me.”
“He’s faster than you?”
“What did you do next?”
“I tried to flag down a vehicle [the getaway car] that was going real slow along Branscomb Road but he didn’t stop until he got to where the two black men were who tried to rob my mother-in-law. Then he stopped and they got in.”
“Did you later find that that same vehicle had been in your yard?”
“Yes. He stopped right in front of a video camera on the corner of the house, then got out and looked right at the camera.”
“What was it?”
“A green Ford Expedition.”
“Do you see the driver in court?”
“That’s him right there in the striped jail clothes.”
Casey Riggs told a slightly different account. He said he was trying to keep out of sight, so he didn’t know whether Janette saw him or not. No, neither of them, Casey or John, had guns. Janette kicked the door open and started to scream. That’s when Riggs saw a black male with a gun in his hand.
When Riggs got out to Branscomb Road ahead of the others, he saw a car coming out of a driveway and jumped in it when the driver stopped at the stop sign. He told her — a complete stranger who he later found out was named Izzy — he was running from armed robbers and they also saw the men get into the Ford Expedition, which they followed, as “it blew the stop sign at Foster’s on Highway 101, and they continued to follow it to the south yard for the nursery.”
Eyster called Deputy Hank Stolfi who had pulled the Ford Expedition over near Willits and detained the occupants until John Hawthorne and his mother-in-law arrived and identified the culprits.
D’Wan Porter-Walker’s wife was seated in front of me in the courtroom and it was late, the hearing having gone on until after dark. As Judge John Behnke was handing down holding orders on the numerous charges of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted armed robbery in concert, all very serious strike offenses, she turned to me and asked, “What’s he saying?”
“Nothing’s been proven,” I answered, “but the judge is ordering them both held because he thinks the charges are probably true.”
The wife started shaking then fell on the floor and was having a seizure. The bailiffs came over and somebody called 911 for an ambulance. Only one door to the Courthouse was unlocked at that hour. I got out of the way so the emergency medical technicians could get in and up to the top floor un-obstructed by a nosey reporter.
The next morning I found out that the woman had been treated and released. Everyone was very sympathetic towards her, but it occurred to me that Public Defender Thompson — D’Wan Porter-Walker’s attorney — could have lessened the shock to this poor woman somewhat by alerting her to the fact that her husband was in big trouble.