by K. Hall and Connor Kianpour
A “Cowboy Gun,” a Belligerent Witness, and a Heated Call for a Mistrial: The Froste Trial Resumes
By K. Hall
This morning in Department 14 of Yolo Superior Court, the trial of accused kidnapper and murderer David Ashley Froste resumed with a few eyebrow-raising moments. It began with a cross-examination of a witness who mentioned a “cowboy gun.” Later, tensions and tempers were amplified in the courtroom as an extremely disgruntled third witness took the stand.
“JP” was the first witness to testify today as Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira cross-examined this witness, whose testimony began yesterday. JP, who appeared to be in his early twenties, stated that he had daily smoked marijuana for free with his friend Enrique Rios in the months prior to Rios’s disappearance. JP further indicated he was aware that Rios was supplied with marijuana by Mr. Froste and another defendant, a Mr. Shannon. However, he stated that he was unaware of who supplied Rios with the cocaine, which he may have also been selling. JP testified that he often bought marijuana from Mr. Shannon. He sporadically ended up at the house Shannon shared with another defendant, Jonathan Froste, where he purchased and smoked it in the presence of Jonathan. He indicated that, nearing the time of the disappearances, he would pick up Rios and drive him to Woodland to smoke marijuana every day and then return him home.
The testimony took a odd turn when JP described a “cowboy gun” which was shown to both him and Rios by Mr. Shannon on a cold day at an outdoor location four to five days prior to the disappearances. He indicated that this event occurred in the context of a conversation centered around Shannon getting robbed, during which Shannon mentioned that the next person who robbed him would get “popped.” When prompted by Ms. Sequeira, the witness further explained to the court and the jury that “getting popped” is slang for getting shot. He indicated later that he “did not feel threatened” and Rios, who was present at the time, “did not seem to be” threatened by the gun because guns were a regular part of the culture or lifestyle he was involved in.
“FJ,” a neighbor to Rios, who characterized himself as a positive older influence upon the young victim, was the second witness called by Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes to offer testimony. This witness described the missing teen as a friendly, outgoing kid who would often stop by his house where they would sit together on his porch and chat about various topics including school, work and the young man’s probation. He testified about a conversation he had with Rios near the time of his disappearance, wherein Rios told him that his mother had confiscated a pound of marijuana – and FJ was surprised at the large quantity the teen had acquired. He further testified about the evening he last saw Rios where he, after a 20-minute visit, was picked up by unknown individual(s) in a late 90’s forest green Honda. He stated that at that time Rios informed him he was going to a party. During cross-examination by Ms. Sequeira, FJ admitted that, although he had seen an individual driving the same make and model car on a prior occasion, he could not say with total certainty that it was the same vehicle because he had not made note of the license number on the earlier occasion. Ms. Sequeira, during cross-examination, pointed out this slight incongruency with earlier statements the witness had given to the police, wherein he indicated a suspected driver on the evening in question.
As the third witness, “OF,” took the stand, the tension in the room increased markedly. He was visibly irritated upon entry and when asked by Mr. Hasapes why he was here today he forcefully stated that he did not want to be in court and was only present “because I don’t want to go to jail!” When asked further who he was angry with he replied, “with whoever gave me the subpoena!” The remainder of OF’s testimony was punctuated by a continual tapping of his finger upon the table in front of him in what seemed like an effort to display his disapproval at being subpoenaed to appear. Although he spoke out of turn, often interrupting not only the attorneys but also Judge David Rosenberg, OF did identify David Froste in the courtroom, noting that they were neighbors and friends who had both grown up across the street from one another in the small town of Knights Landing. His testimony indicated that he was awakened on the night of one of the disappearances in October of 2016 by David Froste who claimed his brother’s car was stuck and he needed to borrow OF’s truck to help pull it out. Given their long history, OF explained that he unquestioningly handed David Froste the keys to his Ford F-150, shut the door and went back to sleep. It was at this point Judge Rosenberg dismissed the jury for lunch and requested that OF return to continue his testimony in the afternoon.
** After the jury left the room **
Ms. Sequeira brought up an issue of late discovery to the court. She discussed a Welfare and Institutions Code §827 petition regarding the juvenile records of victims Rios and Moore as well as Jesus Campos, a juvenile defendant in this alleged crime. Ms. Sequeira complained that she did not receive the requested discovery documents until 5:05pm yesterday evening – which was “well past” the discovery period, and added that the prosecution has been in possession of this information for “four years.” She also complained of redacted names and contact information which made communication with possible witnesses difficult and in at least one case impossible. Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden argued that the discovery was not related to the case and this was merely an attempt on the part of the defense to “sully” the reputation of the victims. Ms. Sequeira came back with a heated response indicating that it was in no way her intention to sully the victims but rather to find a “recourse” for the late discovery, stating that “either I get a mistrial right now” or this problem of late discovery needs to be addressed. Judge Rosenberg calmly responded by stating that “all relevant evidence comes in” and the issue would be addressed by the court.
Mother Gives Touching Testimony in Murder Trial for Missing Teens
by Connor Kianpour
The trial of David Ashley Froste, suspected of orchestrating the abduction and murder of two teenagers in the autumn of 2016, resumed on the afternoon of October 10, 2018, in Department 14 of the Superior Court of Yolo County, Judge David Rosenberg presiding. The direct examination of Mr. Froste’s neighbor whose vehicle was presumed to be used in the crime, was interrupted by the court’s scheduled lunch hour, so the direct examination proceeded once court was in session again for the afternoon.
The witness was asked by the prosecution how his vehicle came to be in Mr. Froste’s possession. The witness reported that Mr. Froste asked to borrow his truck at 3 AM on the morning of one of the disappearances to assist his brother, Jonathan Froste, and the witness complied. The truck was not returned to its owner until 10:30 AM that same day. The witness reported that Mr. Froste texted him that he had returned the truck and that there was gas money in the car to make up for the gas he had used.
Two weeks later, according to the witness, he and Mr. Froste went to K’s Car Wash on Gibson Road in Woodland, where the two of them washed the witness’s truck. The witness reported that, at that time, he was a heavy drinker and asked Mr. Froste to drive him to the car wash because he was drinking a beer. He stepped away from the truck to answer a phone call from his sister, and it was at this point in the story that things become unclear.
The prosecution brought to light the fact that the witness had reported to people that during the time he had stepped away from his vehicle, he observed Mr. Froste using bleach while cleaning his truck. On the stand, however, the witness—quite aggravated by the prosecution’s suggestions—stated that he had no recollection of saying such things, and claimed that if he had, it was most likely something he carelessly said while he was drunk.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Martha Sequeira revealed that much of the witness’s observable frustration during his testimony was in large part due to the fact that his truck was taken from him in the spring of 2017 and he has had to since coordinate rides with his brother, with whom he has a strained relationship. That same brother was supposed to testify in court on October 10 as well, but was unable to because the prosecution discovered new evidence pertinent to the case that Ms. Sequeira requested she have time to investigate before he testifies.
The next witness called to the stand was the mother of Elijah Moore, one of the alleged victims in this crime. During her testimony, she reflected on her son’s childhood. Elijah Moore grew up without a father because his father is serving a life sentence in prison. On top of this, he moved a lot in his childhood, as his single mother struggled to make ends meet for her family. Because of these unfortunate circumstances, Mr. Moore struggled academically in his early high school years.
It wasn’t until he enrolled in the Northern California Construction Training program that he became enthusiastic about learning and being productive again, according to his mother. Mr. Moore was reportedly a “momma’s boy” and was never out of touch with his mother for more than a few hours at a time. This changed, however, on November 4, 2016—the day after Elijah Moore’s birthday.
His mother took that day off of work to go into Sacramento with her two sons to celebrate their birthdays with family. At 3 PM on November 4, she received a call from Elijah asking her for his social security number so he would be able to cash the check he received at work. When Elijah didn’t show up at the time that he was supposed to for his family gathering, his mother became increasingly worried. She tried calling him numerous times to no avail. For the two days following, she waited hopefully, believing that her boy would turn up. Unfortunately, he did not. She ended her testimony by saying that she has not heard from or seen her son since.
After her testimony, court adjourned. Judge Rosenberg instructed the members of the jury to arrive at court at 9 AM on October 11, 2018, to reconvene the trial.