Later this month, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz will begin making decisions and issuing court orders that will lead to the trial of Robert Pape and Cristin Smith, charged with multiple counts of murder.
The two men are charged with the 2006 murders of Jon Hayward, Vicki Friedli, and Vicki’s daughter Becky, who all lived in a Pinyon house.
The judge has already ruled there will be separate juries for each defendant.
Schwartz will have to rule on multiple motions from both the prosecution and the defense sides. He has given the attorneys until March 9 to file motions. However, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office submitted five last week.
These included a motion to introduce a video of Smith from May 2012, when he was in the military stationed at Ft. Lewis in Washington. Military investigators brought him to an interrogation room to ask questions. Several times they told him he was not under arrest and so he did not receive his Miranda warning. He confirmed his understanding of his situation, according to the DA’s motion.
However, when the investigators left the room, they continued to record Smith. Several times he spoke out to himself and this is what the DA wants to introduce. The motion stresses that Smith was never in custody during this period.
The motion does not reveal what was recorded, only that it should be admitted.
Another motion requests that the judge admit several recorded calls between Pape and his former wife, Sara Honaker Pape. These occurred in June 2014 after his first arrest.
The motion states that he and his then-wife were discussing guns that he owned and where they might be concealed. At least one of these weapons appears to match the weapon used in the murders.
The DA’s Office also wants to admit statements that Smith made to Jeremy Todd Witt when they worked together in 2007 at Knott’s Soak City in Palm Springs.
Smith apparently said to Witt that one does not have to be in the military to be a killer. In another conversation, while staring up at Pinyon Pines, Witt said Smith said, “Something went wrong and we torched the f…ing place.”
At the time, Witt was unaware of the Pinyon homicides. Eventually, he learned of them and made an anonymous call to the Sheriff’s Department. Not until several years passed was the Sheriff’s Department able to identify the source of the anonymous call. Witt admitted he made the call and has testified in a preliminary hearing about Smith’s statements.
John Patrick Dolan, Smith’s attorney, has already submitted a 100-page motion addressing the expected testimony from dozens of prospective witnesses. In one section, Dolan states that if Witt is permitted to testify, he will present evidence impeaching his testimony, including pending and prior convictions involving issues of moral turpitude.
Within this filing, Dolan addresses possible testimony from several potential witnesses, including Javier Garcia, Jacob Santiago, his cousin, and Austin Alba, a friend. These individuals may become targets of the defense’s effort to raise reasonable doubt concerning Smith’s guilt.
Becky Friedli was dating Santiago and was good friends with Garcia. The defense will allege that they may have been the perpetrators.
However, the DA’s Office has already filed a motion to dismiss this evidence as being too weak under California law to be introduced. “It is entirely irrelevant and poses a substantial risk of prejudicing and confusing the jury,” the DA claimed.
But Dolan argues that “this evidence may raise a reasonable doubt as to defendant’s culpability in the deaths … and the arson.”