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Court case continued for initial murder suspect in Kauffman killing
Woody Robert
Robert Lee Woody

Robert Lee Woody, one of the nine defendants arrested in the death of 26-year-old Korey Kauffman, made a brief court appearance Wednesday for a pretrial hearing, requesting a continuance.

Prior to the arrests of the other eight defendants Woody had a preliminary hearing set to start Aug. 24, but it was taken off the calendar and since then he has only had the brief pretrial hearing requesting a continuance.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova granted the continuance and slated another pretrial hearing for Nov. 17.

Woody was the first defendant a multi-agency task force arrested for Kauffman’s murder. He was taken into custody in March 2014 and had been held at the Stanislaus County Jail. He is now being housed in an undisclosed location, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

On Aug. 14 authorities arrested defense attorney Frank Carson, his wife Georgia DeFilippo, Pop N’ Cork owners Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal, and former California Highway Patrol Officer Walter Wells on charges of murder and conspiracy for Kauffman’s death. CHP Officers Scott McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar and Christina DeFilippo have been charged with conspiracy and being accessories.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office alleges Carson recruited people to help him catch the people he believed had been stealing items off his property on Ninth Street in Turlock, and that they planned to deal with the suspected thieves on their own and not through law enforcement. The district attorney’s office alleges the defendants were responsible for the death of Kauffman on March 31, 2012, and that they then conspired to thwart and stop the resulting investigation.

Woody is being tried separately from the other defendants and it appears his information could be beneficial for the prosecution’s case, but it could also be problematic because according to the defense attorneys, he has told several different versions of what happened that night, all with varying degrees of his own culpability.

As the other defendants were all being taken into custody, investigators were interviewing Woody and he was being far more cooperative with them then he has in the past. During a previous bail hearing for the other defendants, district attorney investigator Steven Jacobson testified as to the details of his interview with Woody, in which Woody claims Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal were directly involved in killing Kauffman and that his body was hidden for 27 days in a shallow grave next to the Pop N’ Cork.

Woody told the investigator that prior to Kauffman’s disappearance, Carson, Baljit Athwal, and himself all met at Carson’s law office in Modesto. Before going inside the office Woody was instructed to turn off his cell phone and leave it in the vehicle with Baljit Athwal’s phone. At this meeting, Woody said Carson told them he had some business he wanted them to take care of and gave them a list of names. Woody told Jacobson Carson was being cryptic, but the point was made that he wanted to send a clear message to the people on the list.

Jacobson testified that Woody told him that around 11 p.m. March 30, 2012, Baljit Athwal left the Pop N’ Cork store to go check on Carson’s property. About an hour later he summoned Daljit Atwal and Woody to the property. Woody told the investigator that as they pulled into the property he saw Baljit Athwal and Kauffman fighting with one another and that Kauffman was getting the better of Baljit Athwal.

Woody told Jacobson that Daljit Athwal joined the fight and that the two brothers were severely beating Kauffman. He recounted that Kauffman tucked his head down and was in a fetal position, though still standing. He said the Athwal brothers landed several punches to Kauffman’s head and body. Woody said he tried to stop the fight, but was unable to pull them off Kauffman.

Woody told the investigator he turned to leave, which is when he heard a gunshot. When he turned back around he saw Kauffman lying lifeless on the ground with a bullet wound to his upper back and the two brothers standing over him.

During the interview with Jacobson, Woody recounted telling the brothers that they couldn’t leave the body there, which is when they decided to take it to Pop N’ Cork and bury it in a fenced yard by the store.

Woody claimed he dug a two foot grave, while Baljit Athwal served as a lookout and Daljit Atwal went back and reopened the store. Woody told the investigators that he and Baljit Athwal cut off Kauffman’s fingers and toes before burying him.

Woody told the investigator that while he was digging the grave, Wells arrived at the store and was seen laughing with Daljit Atwal. In the criminal complaint the district attorney’s office accuses Wells of possessing Kauffman’s cell phone between March 30, 2012 and April 16, 2012.

Woody said they left the body buried there until investigators started questioning them about the disappearance. After 27 days, Woody and Baljit Athwal dug up Kauffman’s remains and drove to the Stanislaus National Forest, where they left it not far from a ravine and out in the open for animals to scavenge. That same day Woody said he set Baljit Athwal’s truck on fire and Baljit Athwal later reported it stolen.

Jacobson testified that Woody showed him the area at the Pop N’ Cork property where the body was buried and that there was evidence of the “hard pan” disturbed. He also said they found a portion of a zipper that investigators believe came from Kauffman’s hoodie. It is currently undergoing forensic testing.

Martha Carlton-Magana, who is representing Baljit Athwal, pointed to versions in which Woody blames Kauffman’s friend Mike Cooley for the murder, and in another he states it was some “Mexican prison buddies” of Daljit Atwal’s that had been paid to do it. In one conversation with a former girlfriend, Woody says he committed the murder because “that’s what happens when you piss me off.”

At the bail hearing, Carlton-Magana said it was hard to give credence to Woody’s interview because he was a “felon and a liar.”

The investigators wrote in the 326-page affidavit filed with the arrests that Woody’s statements prior to his arrests were consistent in that he was present when Kauffman was killed and that Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal were involved. It wasn’t until the initial interviews after his arrest that Woody made statements about “Mexican prison buddies” being involved.

The affidavit states: “These statements have never come up before in the investigation and do not make any sense as neither Daljit nor Baljit has ever been in prison or jail for any significant time to have any “Mexican prison buddies.”