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Tracking the Testimony in the Richmond Rape Case

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As a preliminary hearing goes into it's third week, a rundown of the evidence and witnesses so far

The preliminary hearing for seven defendants charged in connection with the rape and beating of a Richmond High student continues today with two significant witnesses—numbers 19 and 20 below—set to take the stand this week. The hearing moves into its 16th day with testimony from the Richmond Police Department’s lead investigator, and it will conclude after testimony from a DNA expert. Both witnesses are expected to provide details that fill gaps in the evidence against several defendants. To summarize the evidence presented so far, Richmond Confidential has compiled a comprehensive list of all the witnesses and key points in their testimony.

1. Officer Todd Kaiser – First to arrive at the courtyard at Richmond High School. Kaiser testified that he saw a group of young men running away. He thought the victim was dead when he first saw her.

2. Officer Gunnar Googins – First to arrive at the scene with Kaiser; saw a group of men running away. Googins identified one of those men in court as 19-year-old Manuel Ortega.

3. Officer Jeff Whitson - Helped book suspect Manuel Ortega. Said Ortega was intoxicated, belligerent, and full of things to say including, “I wasn’t the only one, there was hella people.”

4. Officer Gary Lewis – Arrested Ortega just south of Richmond High School the night of the assault. Testified that Ortega—without being prompted—referred to the 16-year-old student by her first name and admitted to having sex with her. Lewis said Ortega told him, “Just shoot me in the head, I don’t care. “I’ve been alive 19 years and nobody don’t care about me.”

5. Officer Joanna Grivetti – Initial Crime Scene Investigator to secure the scene. Also helped book Manuel Ortega. Grivetti said she noted pink glitter stuck to Ortega’s lower belly. Grivetti remembered seeing similar pink flecks on the victim’s dress.

6. Officer Bashar Zeidan - Lead Crime Scene Investigator; took over the scene for Officer Grivetti and booked several materials and objects into evidence including female underwear, discarded condom wrappers, and a used condom. He later booked packaged condoms—matching the brand and lot numbers found on wrappers at the scene—taken from the residence of defendant Ari Morales.

7. Anamaree Rea – A licensed nurse and sexual assault response team coordinator at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center; said she and a colleague conducted an interview and a complete head-to-toe emergency medical exam of the student the day after the assault. Among the scrapes and bruises Rea found on the patient’s body: severe swelling to the left side of the face; broken blood vessels around the right eye; scrapes over her back, and a mark of the ear lobe imprinted on her upper neck which Rea said was caused by blunt force trauma.

8. Katherine Stidwell – Sexual assault nurse examiner; said she didn’t conduct the required vaginal exam because the victim was in too much pain for Stidwell to insert the speculum.

9. Detective Kenneth Greco (retired) – Spoke with the victim the day after the assault; also interviewed Morales and Ortega. When Greco asked the patient if anything sexual had happened, she was adamant that nothing had taken place. “If anyone would have tried anything sexual,” she said, “I would have said no.”

Greco also testified that Morales told him, “I’ll be straight up with you, all I did was pee on her and take her ring.”

10. Officer Peter Martin – Collected evidence from Manuel Ortega for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) kit.

11. Detective Eric Smith – Interviewed Ortega and 22-year-old Salvador Rodriguez of Richmond (initially arrested in connection with the assault, but later released without charges). He testified that Ortega told detectives he saw a man raping the girl. Ortega then identified defendant Jose Montano from a photo lineup as that man, Smith said.

12. Detective Jerree Tong – Booked defendants Morales and Marcelles Peter; interviewed Ortega, who corroborated Morales’ confession.

13. Officer Michael Rood – Testified that he conducted a nearly two-hour interview with a male who said he was at the scene and whom Rood described as “extremely difficult” and “untruthful.” Rood said the witness told him there were a lot of other people at the scene cheering on males who were slapping and otherwise assaulting the student.

14. Detective Eric Haupt – Described his interview with defendant Elvis Torrentes, in which Torrentes said he had mutual flirtatious and physical contact with the student the night of the attack.

As he was leaving the scene, Torrentes said he and Jose Guadalupe ran into Peter and “Joe D.,” whom he identified as Montano. Torrentes said he told the two guys there was a “drunk, naked girl” in the back of the school and that Montano and Peter ran to the scene.

15. Detective Terry Miles – Presented the patient with photos of suspects. From the photos, she confirmed that Rodriguez and defendant Cody Smith—a friend of hers since seventh grade—were at the area that became the crime scene.

16. Dr. Jim Carpenter – A pediatrician with the Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center who specializes in child abuse; testified about his review of the medical records from the girl’s three days at John Muir Medical Center. Carpenter said the girl had a blood alcohol concentration of .355. He also said First Responders gave the patient a score of three on the Glasgow Coma Score, which measures the conscious state of a person. Three is the lowest possible score and indicates deep unconsciousness.

17. Johanna Estrada-Ballardo – Criminalist for Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Crime Lab, tested evidentiary materials and objects for biological fluids (i.e. semen and blood) including the student’s dress and underwear, a walkie-talkie found at the scene, and several articles of clothing. Materials that tested positive were forwarded on for DNA analysis.

18. Detective Stina Johanson - Interviewed Peter after his arrest. Testified that in the interview’s third hour, Peter admitted his involvement saying, “I’m just going to cut to the chase. I fondled her.” He continued to deny ever penetrating the victim.

19. Sergeant Lori Curran – (yet to testify) Lead investigator for the case. Curran conducted several interviews with defendants.

20. DNA expert - (yet to testify) Expected to link DNA evidence to several defendants, including John Crane Jr, 44, who is the only one of seven defendants who has not been identified by a single witness as being present at the scene on the night of the assault.

The defendants—Cody Ray Smith, 16; Ari Morales, 17; Marcelles Peter, 18; Jose Montano, 19; Manuel Ortega, 20; Elvis Torrentes, 23: and Crane—face charges ranging from assault and robbery to gang rape and rape with a foreign object.

All defendants except Torrentes face life sentences if convicted.

The preliminary hearing will continue today, December 15, at 9:00 a.m. in Contra Costa Superior Court in Martinez.

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