A preliminary hearing has been set for August for the man accused of killing Korey Kauffman, whose body was found in the Stanislaus National Forest nearly a year after he was reported missing.
Robert Lee Woody, 39, is facing charges of murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice for the 2012 death of Kauffman. The charges also carry a special circumstance that Woody lied in wait to kill Kauffman.
Woody, who has been in custody since his March 2014 arrest, is set to have a preliminary hearing begin on Aug. 24 in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Kauffman was last seen leaving a home on Lander Avenue on March 30, 2012. He was headed over to a property in the 800 block of Ninth Street when he disappeared. His remains were discovered by a trio of hunters in Stanislaus National Forest in August 2013.
The criminal complaint filed by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office alleges Woody killed Kauffman sometime on or around March 30, 2012. It also states three unnamed co-conspirators assisted Woody before and after Kauffman’s death.
The criminal complaint states Woody and three co-conspirators, identified as B, C and D, conspired together between January 2012 and March, 3, 2014, to obstruct justice by committing four overt acts.
The first overt act listed in the criminal complaint is that co-conspirators B and D agreed to assist co-conspirator C.
The second overt act alleged is that co-conspirator B went with Woody on May 24, 2012 and threatened a witness and that they did so on behalf of co-conspirator C.
The third overt act alleged is that co-conspirators B and D paid for Woody to leave the area in an attempt to keep him from being named a suspect.
The fourth overt act of conspiracy alleged by the district attorney’s office is that Woody obtained an agreement from the three co-conspirators that they would bail him out of jail and that co-conspirator C would provide him with legal representation if he were arrested.
The three co-conspirators have not been named and no other arrests have been made in the case.
Woody has entered a not guilty plea to all the charges lodged against him. He has been held in custody in lieu of a $2 million bail.
In a previous court hearing Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova stated if the other co-conspirators are arrested, he and likely all the Superior Court judges in the county would have to recuse themselves because of potential conflict of interests issues. One reason for the entirety of the county’s judicial branch recusing itself from a case would be if one of the accused was an individual who worked at the courthouse.
Defense attorney and one-time district attorney candidate Frank Carson’s home in the 800 block of Ninth Street in Turlock was the subject of a search by investigators in 2012 in relation to the case. Brothers Baljit and Daljit Athwal, owners of Pop and Cork, have had their Turlock businesses and Ceres homes subject to search multiple times in relation to the death of Kauffman. Woody was employed doing odd jobs at the East Avenue Pop and Cork store for a period of time. The searches prompted several protests from the brothers, including one in front of the Turlock Police Department.
Kauffman was last seen at the home of Michael Cooley in the 1300 block of Lander Avenue. The Lander property abuts up to the back of Carson’s Ninth Street property. Cooley previously told the Journal that he and Kauffman were thinking of sneaking onto Carson’s property that night and taking some irrigation pipes that had been put out, but Cooley said he had second thoughts when he saw some men on Carson’s property.
Allegations of theft had instigated an ongoing dispute between Cooley and Carson long before the night Kauffman vanished. A record of call for service requests from the Turlock Police Department show officers were dispatched to the Lander Avenue home several times because Carson and Cooley were in verbal disputes. There is no record of stolen property being recovered and no arrests were ever made.
Cooley claims he is the witness who was threatened by Woody and co-conspirator B.
Woody will return to court July 27 for a pretrial hearing. The preliminary hearing is being held to determine if there is enough cause to hold Woody over on the charges lodged against him.