The investigation into the murder of Turlock’s Korey Kauffman now includes prominent defense attorney and Stanislaus County district attorney candidate Frank Carson.
A search warrant was served in 2012 at 838 Ninth St. in Turlock. Stanislaus County property records indicate the 1.5-acre parcel is owned by Carson. Multiple reliable sources close to the investigation, who asked to remain unnamed, confirmed the warrant was served in regards to the Kauffman case. The search warrant was served prior to Kauffman’s remains being unearthed in the Stanislaus National Forest in August 2013. The search warrant remains sealed and it is unknown what, if anything, might have been taken as evidence.
Carson did not return a call for comment as of press time.
Investigators have previously stated Kauffman was headed over to a property in the 800 block of Ninth Street when he disappeared.
On the night of March 30, 2012, Kauffman was at Michael Cooley’s home in the 1300 block of Lander Avenue. The back of the Lander Avenue property abuts up to the back of Carson’s Ninth Street property. Cooley admits that he and Kauffman were thinking of sneaking onto Carson’s property that night to take some irrigation pipes that had been put out. But Cooley said he had second thoughts when he saw some men on Carson’s property.
“I saw people there and decided not to go,” Cooley said. “It just gave me a bad feeling and I told Korey not to go either.”
Allegations of theft had instigated an ongoing dispute between Cooley and Carson long before the night Kauffman vanished.
The Turlock Police Department’s log of calls for service indicate that on Feb. 6, 2011, officers were dispatched to the 1300 block of Lander to assist the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. The call narrative states Carson contacted the sheriff’s department about property he believed was stolen out of a cargo container on his land. Carson told law enforcement he had followed the trail back to a house in the 1300 block of Lander Avenue and believed his property was being hidden there. The house was being occupied by Cooley and he agreed to let law enforcement search the premises. Nothing was found and no arrest was made.
On Feb. 23, 2011, a call was made to TPD by Carson’s wife reporting Carson and an unknown man, later identified as Cooley, were in a verbal dispute over possible stolen property. The call log indicates police made contact with the two men outside the home in the 1300 block of Lander Avenue. Again, no stolen property was recovered and no arrests were made.
On Jan. 2, 2012, a TPD officer investigating a suspicious vehicle found Carson sitting in a parked car in the 100 block of Montana, which is directly diagonal from where Cooley resided.
The investigation into Kauffman’s murder has gained momentum since the end of February when investigators served search warrants at a home in the 1100 block of East Avenue, the East Avenue and Crowell Avenue locations of Pop-N-Cork, and the Ceres residences of brothers Baljit and Daljit Atwal, who own Pop-N-Cork.
The East Avenue residence searched by law enforcement is the last known address of Robert Lee Woody, the 38-year-old man who was arrested and charged with Kauffman’s murder days after the warrant was served.
Woody has been charged with murder with a special allegation of lying in wait for the victim. He is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice. The conspiracy charge stems from the three co-conspirators Woody is alleged to have had, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
The criminal complaint lists the three co-conspirators as B, C, and D and lists four overt acts of conspiracy. It states co-conspirators B and D agreed to help co-conspirator C. The criminal complaint states that on May 24, 2012, Woody and co-conspirator B went and threatened a witness on behalf of co-conspirator C. Additionally, co-conspirators B and D are accused of paying for Woody to “leave the jurisdiction so as not to be a witness/suspect.”
The criminal complaint claims Woody had an agreement with all three co-conspirators that they would bail him out and “C would provide him with legal representation if defendant (Woody) were arrested so as to induce defendant not to cooperate with law enforcement."
Woody has been held in custody since his arrest without bail. He had a hearing Friday morning in Stanislaus County Superior Court in which the public defender’s office was recused from representing him because of a conflict with at least one individual on the witness list. The case was ordered back to court Tuesday at which point it should be assigned to a judge and Woody will be appointed with new counsel.
Cooley claims he is the witness who was threatened by Woody and co-conspirator B, who he alleges is Baljit Atwal. Cooley said he came out of his home to find Woody and Baljit Atwal parked in a car in front of his home.
“They told me I had better mind my own business and quit looking into things that didn’t concern me,” Cooley said.
Baljit Atwal denies ever threatening Cooley. He says he and Woody were asked by Carson to keep an eye out for some property stolen off of Carson’s land. Carson suspected Cooley of the theft and Woody and Baljit Atwal went to a local recycling center to find out where Cooley lived. Baljit Atwal said he was driving by the home when Cooley came out and said something like, ‘can I help you friend?’
“I said ‘I’m not your friend’ and that was it. We drove off. There was no threat,” Baljit Atwal said.
Both Baljit and Daljit Atwal have denied any involvement in the death of Kauffman. Both men stated they did not know him, nor did they recognize him as a frequent customer in their East Avenue store. Kauffman’s sister-in-law, Sandra Stubblefield, said Kauffman routinely went to the store, which is also where they would frequently see Woody.
Baljit Atwal said he has known Woody for several years as a customer of the Pop-N-Cork’s East Avenue location. He also said they would hire Woody to do odd jobs around the store. Baljit Atwal said he last spoke with Woody about six month ago, saying he cut off contact when Woody started using drugs again.
The brothers have staged protests outside the Turlock Police Department and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office claiming they are being harassed by law enforcement.
The Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters candidate list shows Carson filed a statement of intention to run for the county’s district attorney on Nov. 15, 2013. He has since qualified to be on the ballot.