The Paul Moore trial: Prosecution builds case on cellphones, letters
SACRAMENTO — Two days after the explosion at a power panel of an irrigation pump killed Roberto Ayala in a rice field south of Colusa, Grimes resident Paul Moore approached Detective Sgt. Mark Troughton and said, "It's not an accident," according to testimony provided by Troughton in the trial against Moore.
Moore, represented by defense attorney Linda Parisi, is being tried in Sacramento for the July 16, 2011, death of Ayala.
Prosecutors Special Assistant Attorney General David Druliner and District Attorney John Poyner began building their case last week with witness testimony and evidence in the Colusa County Superior Court case.
A few key pieces of evidence have been referenced and discussed multiple times, including Moore's actions days after the incident, text messages between Paul and his cousin, Peter Moore, and two letters received by the Colusa County Sheriff's Department.
Colusa County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Thompson agreed to move the case to Sacramento in late July.
Ayala, who was a foreman at Moore Brothers farm, had left his son in his pickup when he opened a panel door of an irrigation pump and was killed by an explosion.
In testimony given last Thursday, Troughton said that Paul Moore approached him on July 18, 2011, when there hadn't yet been a determination whether the explosion was a criminal act, giving him a piece of metal from the site of the incident.
Paul Moore also showed Troughton text messages between Paul Moore and Peter Moore from July 15, in which Peter Moore expressed discontent with the condition of the rice fields and Peter Moore's frustration that he doesn't work as a farmer, Troughton said.
"He's actually showing me his phone and he's shaking. I'll never forget it," Troughton said.
Lead investigator in the case Dave Salm said in testimony on Monday that incident led the team to obtain a search warrant on July 19, 2011, to search Peter Moore's house.
Salm said nothing criminal regarding this case was collected.
He said that at the time, "we had no idea what we were doing. No one in our department has seen anything like this before."
On Aug. 11, 2011, Salm received a call from Special Agent Brian Parker of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who told him that "the presence of nitroglycerin was present, indicating an explosive" was used in the incident.
"Before that time, we didn't know it was not an electrical malfunction," Salm testified on Monday.
The next day, before the public had been notified that the incident may include a bomb, the Sheriff's Department received a letter in the mail that said "Ayala Case" in the upper left corner written with what appeared to be a label maker. On Aug. 15, 2011, the department received a second letter.
The two letters claimed to be authored by a gang hitman and contained a diagram of a bomb.
Quoting from the letter, Salm read: "I am responsible for the panel explosion. This was a MS-13 job. Something about a Mexican deal gone wrong."
The letter said that there was a second target, but the author did not want to take the job because he didn't want to kill the wrong person.
"Target two is brother of target one," he said, again reading the letter for jurors.
Salm, who has experience as a gang expert, said MS-13 refers to Mara Salvatrucha, "a violent Mexican gang," that is active in California.
He suspected the letters were not gang-related because "In my experience, if gangs commit violence, they don't hide it."
The letters appeared to be typed with a label maker, then fixed onto a sheet of paper, then photocopied. The department received the photocopied image of the original letters and diagram of a bomb, Salm testified.
He said the copy of the hand-drawn diagram seemed to align with items of evidence found at the scene.
"There was 11 total similarities between the diagram and the evidence we collected," Salm said.
Those items included a long bolt, which Salm said matched the image labeled "drop weight" in the diagram, and deformed pieces of plastic that he said matched a plastic bottle in the diagram labeled "gasoline" and "plastic."
Parisi questioned Salm's ability to determine whether the items were similar to those in the diagram of the bomb due to a lack of scale. In addition, she asked Salm to clarify whether he was an expert in determining whether the text was made with a label maker. He said he wasn't but that it looked like that from his observation.
In Parisi's opening statement, she made reference to an indentation of a diagram found in Paul Moore's home.
She said that when it was discovered on the top of a desk, four months after it was supposedly made, there was no water mark or imperfection of any kind on the paper.
"Either it sat there, untouched, for four plus months, or it was planted," Parisi said.
The trial is scheduled to continue for two weeks.
Computer technician testifies
Special Agent Greg Estes with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted forensic analysis on both Peter Moore's and Paul Moore's computers and provided testimony regarding what he found. He testified last week in Sacramento County Superior Court, where the trial was moved.
Jurors were directed to read a document "My Life," which Estes said was created on Paul Moore's computer in 2010.
Under the heading, "My Working Life," the document represented what appeared to be expressions of Moore's discontentment with the family farm.
"Looking back now, I was just another employee but treated worse than anyone else. I was never included in the decision making process or even included in a capacity in which I might be learning something," the document said.
In cross-examination, Defense attorney Linda Parisi questioned whether the document could have been created by someone else and simply opened on Paul Moore's computer in 2010.
Estes said that was a possibility.
She also asked whether any references to the word "bomb" were discovered on Peter Moore's computer.
Estes said yes and, under cross-examination by prosecutor Special Assistant Attorney General David Druliner, said, "Often, a common word like 'bomb' is going to return multiple hits." He said he picked a few results and dug deeper, but he "did not find ones of evidentiary value."