SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A long and largely forgotten death investigation in California’s Central Valley has led to a vast and unexpected set of arrests that included three current and former Highway Patrol officers and a prominent defense attorney.
They were among nine people arrested in the 2012 disappearance and killing of Korey Kauffman, stemming from the belief that he was stealing the attorney’s antiques, law enforcement officials said at a news conference Friday in Modesto, California.
Those arrested either played a part in the killing of the 26-year-old Kauffman or helped cover it up and misled investigators, the officials said.
Kauffman was reported missing in April 2012. His body was found by hunters in August 2013 in rural Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park.
Modesto attorney Frank Carson orchestrated the killing and enlisted the help of two brothers who own a liquor store in Turlock, investigators with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said.
Carson believed Kauffman and others were stealing valuable antiques from storage containers on his property, and he wanted to stop the thefts by sending a message, investigators said.
Kauffman was on his way to steal from Carson when he disappeared, according to a 326-page court filing authorities used to get arrest warrants.
Carson’s attorney, Percy Martinez, said his client is innocent and his arrest was politically motivated.
Carson ran unsuccessfully for district attorney last year. He has been under investigation since Kauffman disappeared, Martinez said. Investigators searched Carson’s property in 2012.
“We welcome the opportunity to fight this in court,” Martinez said.
The CHP officers were all associated with the brothers and the Turlock liquor store.
CHP officers Scott McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar are suspected of obstructing the investigation. They are accused of lying about their involvement with the liquor store and the two brothers who own it.
Quintanar told one of the brothers to tell another suspect to check under his car for police tracking devices, investigators said.
Former CHP Officer Walter Wells is suspected of murder.
“The entire department and I are appalled at the mere thought that one former and two current employees played any role in this incident,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said.
Wells left the CHP several weeks ago, and the other two officers have been placed on administrative leave, Farrow said.
Carson’s wife, Georgia Geanette Defilippo, is also accused of participating in the killing. Defilippo’s daughter was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and being an accessory.
All of the suspects remained jailed Friday.
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