Paul Moore convicted in Colusa bombing death
Paul Moore was found guilty on Friday of first-degree murder of Moore Bros. farm foreman Roberto Ayala in Colusa County after the jury deliberated for about five hours.
"We've waited 25 months and seven days for this moment," said Eduardo Ayala, brother of the victim.
Roberto Ayala was killed by a victim-triggered bomb when he opened the power panel for a water pump on a ricefield south of Colusa on July 16, 2011. His son, Fabian, was 7 at the time and witnessed the explosion and ran two miles through fields to find help.
Defense attorney Linda Parisi argued that Paul Moore's cousin, Peter, was responsible for the bomb in the three-week Colusa County Superior Court trial that was moved to Sacramento.
Paul Moore is the son of Roger Moore, who co-owns the 1,800 acre family farm with his brother, Gus Moore.
"Do I think Paul did this? Do I think Peter (Paul's cousin) did this? My answer to that is I don't know anyone that could have done that," Roger Moore said after the verdict was announced.
After the verdict, Parisi said she still believed a lot of questions went unanswered and that she will likely appeal the decision.
Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner said Parisi was the best defense attorney he has ever gone up against.
"But I never had a doubt that my investigation team put together a rock-solid case," Poyner said.
Prosecutors David Druliner and Poyner argued that Paul Moore was clever and resented that he ranked low on the farm compared to other employees, particularly Roberto Ayala, who had a close rel tionship with Roger Moore.
"I feel like I've lost two sons in one time," Roger Moore said.
Poyner announced early on that he would not seek the death penalty.
He will seek life in prison without parole for Paul Moore. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
Roger Moore testified that he planned to share his half of the farm with his son but that Paul Moore would have to work his way up in an effort to build respect from the employees, a situation that Druliner said Paul Moore resented.
Roger Moore also testified that his son had technical and electrical expertise, a characteristic the prosecution said was necessary to construct the bomb.
"I love my three children a lot, and I think all three know I wouldn't lie for them," Roger Moore said.
Druliner, special assistant attorney general, said, "Roger Moore is a very impressive individual and up front."
"(The murder) is really the unfortunate product that came out, in spite of Roger's well-meaning efforts to do well by his family and do well by the company," Druliner said.
Eduardo Ayala, who still works on the Moore Bros. farm where his brother was killed, said that on the first day of court, he heard bells ringing in the halls. He learned that a bell rang every time a verdict was made.
"The bells of justice have finally rung for us," Ayala said.
Poyner said he called Peter Moore after the verdict was announced.
"I said, 'Pete, the jury now knows it was not Peter Moore, it was Paul Moore," Poyner said.
Of Paul Moore, Poyner said, "The guy is evil. I have nothing to say to that man, other than bye-bye."
Final arguments discuss motive, evidence
In his final argument to jurors, prosecutor David Druliner admitted that the three week-long murder trial involving the heirs of rice farmers in Colusa County had "taken on a soap opera quality."
"(It's) Like 'Dallas' or 'Dynasty,' with lots of in-fighting in the family," he said.
Paul Moore was tried and convicted for the murder of Moore Bros. farm foreman Roberto Ayala, who was killed by a victim-triggered bomb when he opened the power panel for a water pump on a ricefield south of Colusa on July 16, 2011.
After almost three weeks of witness testimony, jurors heard closing arguments by Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner and defense attorney Linda Parisi on Thursday. Druliner completed his argument before jurors deliberated for about five hours.
"The killer, this man here, is really, really clever," Druliner said of Moore.
Parisi argued that Moore's cousin, Peter Moore, was responsible for the bombing death.
Druliner urged the jurors to ask themselves who would benefit from Ayala's death.
"Would Paul benefit from Roberto Ayala's death? Yes. But Peter doesn't at all. For Paul, he kills Roberto and Roberto is out of his way," he said.
Poyner: Fabian moved the truck
In his final argument, John Poyner said there was no doubt in his mind that 7-year-old Fabian Ayala moved his father's truck 11 feet at the scene of the crime after the boy watched his father die.
"Fabian did tell the cops he didn't move the truck. ... He's a 7-year-old boy. He just saw his dad get blown up," Poyner said.
He theorized that Fabian tried to move the truck but was intimidated by a tight turn he would have had to make to drive the large truck on the farm road to find help. So instead, Poyner suggested, Fabian left the truck and ran.
Poyner brought up the question of how a short child could reach the pedals while steering to move the vehicle. To answer, he cited Fabian's older brother's testimony.
Jesus Ayala had testified that when he joined his father on the farm, Roberto Ayala would place the truck in neutral, go do his job, hop back in the truck and pop the gear back into drive.
"In jury selection, nobody told you to park your common sense outside. And I'm telling you, don't leave your common sense on the levy. Fabian moved the truck," Poyner said.
During Linda Parisi's opening statement in the Sacramento courtroom on Aug. 8, she said Roberto Ayala's truck at the site of the bomb explosion had been moved about 11 feet between when the explosion occurred and when officers arrived at the scene.
Parisi said she would argue that "only one person could move the truck, and that's the same man that planted the bomb — Peter."
On the witness stand, in response to a question by Poyner, Fabian said he did move the truck before he ran to two miles to find help. However, police reports from the day of the incident reflected Fabian's statement that he had not moved the truck.
John Poyner reminded jurors that all physical evidence was linked to Paul Moore.
"Nothing was linked to Peter Moore," Poyner said in his closing argument on Thursday.
"If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's Paul Moore," he said.
The prosecution's case relied on indirect, or circumstantial, evidence, with particular focus on two letters.
A month after Ayala was murdered, the Colusa County Sheriff's Department received two letters labeled with a label maker as "Ayala Case" and claiming to be from a professional hitman responsible for the bombing. The second letter contained a diagram of a bomb that matches the device that killed Ayala.
A search of Paul Moore's home recovered a piece of paper with an indentation of the bomb diagram — as if it were stacked under another sheet of paper on which the diagram was drawn — a printer and a Brother brand label maker.
Prosecutors brought in expert witnesses, including forensics specialists from the U.S. Secret Service, who tied Paul Moore to those letters.
"Everything was positively linked to Paul Moore, or was indistinguishable," Poyner said.
Parisi said, "Given the circumstantial evidence, there are several possibilities" and "Peter is a clever man."
"There's just poor Peter, 'sorry about what I said.' Well, that's just one Peter. We also see the Pete Moore that makes threats," Parisi said, referencing the characterization of him as a "loudmouth" and a list of witness testimony that he threatened people.
She argued that Peter Moore planted the indented diagram in Paul Moore's house.
"You must reject the inference that points towards guilt and adopt the evidence that point toward innocence. ... One of the reasonable inferences is it could be Paul Moore. Another reasonable inference is, it wasn't," Parisi said.
Jurors found that the only reasonable inference was that Paul Moore was guilty.
An error was committed inadvertently during the editing process of a story in the Aug. 21 edition of the Colusa County Sun-Herald concerning the Paul Moore murder trial.
In an information box on page A4 titled "Physical evidence and expert witnesses" an incorrect name was used for one piece of evidence. It should have said that Amy Michaud, a trace evidence examiner with the ATF, provided testimony comparing labels on files at Paul Moore's house with labels on envelopes of letters sent to the sheriff's office. (In the version printed last Wednesday, another name was used in place of Paul Moore's; that was incorrect.)
The Sun-Herald apologizes for the error.