The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office will start laying out their case Tuesday against the eight defendants they believe took some part in the murder of 26-year-old Turlock resident Korey Kauffman.
The preliminary hearing for defense attorney and one-time district attorney candidate Frank Carson will begin Tuesday. Joining Carson at the defense table will be his wife, Georgia DeFilippo, former California Highway Patrol Officer Walter Wells, and Turlock brothers and Pop N’ Cork owners Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal, all of whom have been charged with murder and conspiracy in Kauffman’s death. Christina DeFilippo, and CHP Officers Scott McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar will also be at the preliminary hearing as they face charges of conspiracy and accessory.
The district attorney’s case puts forth the claim the Carson, enraged over a series of thefts from his Turlock property, was the mastermind behind a plan to catch one of the thieves and send a message to all the others. Their case claims Carson orchestrated a criminal conspiracy that ultimately led to the death of Kauffman on March 31, 2012, and that thereafter the defendants worked to hide the death from authorities and thwart any investigation. The criminal complaint filed in the case lists 17 overt acts of conspiracy, according to the district attorney’s office.
The district attorney’s office has also accused Robert Lee Woody of murder and conspiracy for Kauffman’s death. He is being tried separately and could have a vital role in the preliminary hearing, as he has been cooperating with investigators since the arrest of the eight other defendants on Aug. 14.
The preliminary hearing is being held to determine if the district attorney’s office has enough cause to hold the defendants over for trial on the charges lodged against them.
On March 30, 2012, Kauffman left a Lander Avenue residence and headed over to a property on Ninth Street in Turlock. Investigators have said Kauffman was going to a home that belonged to Carson with the intention of stealing some irrigation pipes.
In a previous interview with District Attorney Steven Jacobson, Woody said he was present when Kauffman was killed. 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 Atwal 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 on East Avenue 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.
Woody later showed investigators the area at the Pop N’ Cork property where the body was buried and there was evidence of the “hard pan” disturbed, according to Jacobson. He also said they found a portion of a zipper that investigators believe came from Kauffman’s hoodie.
Both Georgia DeFilippo and Christina DeFilippo, along with McFarlane and Quintanar are out of custody on bail. Wells was granted the opportunity to post bail but has yet to do so. Carson, Baljit Athwal, and Daljit Atwal are being held in custody with no bail.