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Former detectives family facing criminal charges
james abbey
James Abbey

The husband and father of former sheriff’s detective Kari Abbey have been charged with crimes related to her ongoing case.

Bennie Taylor, Abbey’s husband, was charged Wednesday with felony counts of conspiracy, cultivation of marijuana, possession of an assault weapon, child endangerment, possession of a controlled substance, and a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle.

On the same day James Abbey was charged with felony counts of conspiracy, cultivation of marijuana, possession of a dangerous weapon, and receiving stolen property.

The charges against the two men stem from a larger investigation into Kari Abbey’s activities after she was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting.

Kari Abbey was accused of gunning down Rita Elias on Sept. 24, 2010, after attempts to evict her from a Donald Street property in Modesto owned by Abbey’s father turned into a physical altercation between the two women. At one point Elias went back into the home and came back out with a branch in her left hand and a gun in the right and Kari Abbey fired her weapon, striking Elias.

It was later discovered that the gun in Elias’ hand was a BB gun.

A probe into the shooting was initiated and soon expanded into aspects of Abbey’s personal life and her position as a detective with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators obtained search warrants for Abbey’s residential property, where she lived with her husband Bennie Taylor, their two children and her parents. During the search investigators seized an assault rifle, a shotgun, a .22-caliber handgun, steroids, three police vests, 106 marijuana plants ranging in maturity, along with three bags of packaged marijuana, scales and packaging material.

Kari Abbey was subsequently arrested and charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy to forcibly enter a home, embezzlement from a government entity, receiving stolen property, cultivating marijuana, and permitting a child to be endangered.

At the conclusion of her preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova dropped the murder and manslaughter charges, finding Kari Abbey had acted in self-defense.

Cordova did side with the District Attorney’s Office on four of the lesser charges, finding there was credible evidence to hold Abbey over for trial on the charges of conspiracy to forcibly enter a home, embezzlement from a government entity, cultivating marijuana, and permitting a child to be endangered.

The marijuana found in the search was in a large shop with a portion of it converted into a home. The shop was originally occupied by Kari Abbey and Taylor while construction was done on the main home. Later the shop was occupied by James Abbey.

During the preliminary hearing,  district attorney’s office investigator Mike Hermosa said he had spoken with James Abbey during the search and that he made the statement “don’t ruin my plants,” when investigators entered the shop.

James Abbey allegedly told investigators he was growing the marijuana for several veterans with post traumatic stress syndrome living in the mountains, but would not provide their names to investigators.

The charge of receiving stolen property stems from the two police vests found in Kari Abbey and Taylor’s bedroom. One was a ballistic vest worn by SWAT members and the other was a tactical vest with the name of a deceased detective stitched onto it.

The prosecution claims both vests are the property of the Hayward Police Department. However, HPD Lt. David Lundgren testified for the defense that the tactical vest was not issued by the department and was bought by the detective and was therefore his property to give. Lundgren said the ballistic vest was an older model no longer worn by the SWAT team. He testified Taylor could have been allowed to keep the older vest. Lundgren also said it was not uncommon for vendors to give the vests away at conventions.

The child endangerment charges were lodged because the district attorney’s office believes the weapons found in Kari Abbey and Taylor’s residence were in reach of the couple’s young children.

All three defendants are out on bail. The two men have an arraignment scheduled for April 20. Kari Abbey has a pretrial hearing set for April 16.