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Sheriffs deputy charged with murder
Kari Abbey

A Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy has been arrested on a murder charge following an investigation into an off-duty shooting.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has filed additional charges against 34-year-old Kari Abbey, alleging she has been engaged in numerous criminal offenses.

Abbey, a six-year veteran with the sheriff’s department, is 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.

“This is certainly a tragic situation,” said District Attorney Birgit Fladager. “Charges have been filed following a thorough investigation. We will now seek to bring this matter to a fair and just conclusion.”

Abbey came under investigation after an off-duty shooting in the 1700 block of Donald Street in Modesto on Sept. 24, 2010, which resulted in the death of Rita Elias, 31.

Abbey was at the residence to collect rent when the two women got into a verbal argument that soon escalated into a physical fight. At some point the two women separated and Elias went back into the home. Abbey retrieved a pistol from her vehicle and Elias came out of the home with a gun in one hand and a branch in the other. Abbey fired her pistol, striking Elias multiple times. Elias was taken to Doctors Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. It was later revealed the gun in Elias’ hand was a bb gun.

The shooting was investigated by the sheriff department’s homicide unit and then turned over to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

Investigators served a search warrant at a home belonging to the Abbey Family Trust, which included Abbey at the end of March. During the search investigators found a cache of weapons, cash – both real and counterfeit – steroids, and a “sophisticated indoor marijuana grow.”

Seized were: an unregistered assault rifle loaded with a 30-round magazine; 106 marijuana plants ranging from 16 to 69 inches tall; packaged marijuana; scales and packaging materials; more than $10,000 in cash; counterfeit money; a shotgun listed as stolen from a burglary in Oakland; an illegal sawed-off shotgun; 16 vials of liquid steroids; syringes; and three bullet-proof vests believed to belong to the Hayward Police Department, where Abbey’s husband, Bennie Taylor, was previously employed.

Some of the guns, cash, counterfeit money, steroids and syringes and the bullet-proof vests were found in Abbey and Taylor’s bedroom.

The home is shared by Abbey, Taylor, their two children, as well as her father, James Abbey, according to the arrest affidavit.

The marijuana was found in a detached storage unit that contained an open closet where some of Abbey’s sheriff department uniforms were stored.

In James Abbey’s room, investigators found cash, and an accounting of marijuana expenses and income.

The child endangerment charges against Abbey were filed because during the search investigators found a samurai sword, a loaded handgun in a kitchen drawer, and a loaded shotgun underneath couch cushions – all within reach of the 6-year-old and 20-month-old children living at the home.

According to the arrest affidavit, investigators believe Abbey, along with her husband and father, were routinely harassing tenants at properties owned by one or all and engaging in illegal landlord/tenant practices, like unlawful entry and turning off utilities without notice.

“It appears as though Kari Abbey, Bennie Taylor and James Abbey verbally and physically abused some of their tenants, performed illegal evictions and trespassed on the property of their renters,” the affidavit read.

The investigators also believed they had uncovered evidence that Abbey was conducting property management business while on duty as a sheriff deputy and used other deputies to serve papers for her.

The affidavit stated: “Kari gave the appearance that she was above the law.”

In a released statement, Sheriff Adam Christianson said, “This is a tragedy for everyone involved. We offer our deepest condolences to the Elias family.” 

Abbey is free on $300,000 bail and is awaiting an arraignment. No other arrests have been made in connection to the case.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.