By Tumaris Hone
The trial of David Ashley Froste, suspect in the alleged kidnapping and presumed murder of Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore, resumed. Judge Rosenberg notified jury members that the court will enter into the evidence phase of the trial. The prosecution accordingly introduced a new witness to the stand: “CG,” father of Enrique Rios.
Deputy DA Kyle Hasapes first questioned the father’s residence and then proceeded to investigate his relationship with his son. The witness replied that he lives in Oklahoma, and he informed the attorney that his son and he had a distant relationship. They had a couple of visits over the years, his son particularly reaching out to him a few times, with CG doing the same too through text and sometimes personally. But their visits were mostly composed of formalities. When the prosecution asked if the father found it “unusual” that Enrique did not contact him after September 2016 for a couple of months, despite more continuous contact before, CG could not answer decisively.
The witness subsequently notified the jury on cross-examination that he was not aware his son was missing until five months after.
Shortly after his response, the prosecution summoned a following witness. Probation Officer Rushal Gayton described her career as a supervisor for the Yolo department. She also discussed her commitment to the Yolo County Conservation Partnership (YCCP), a program dedicated to helping students succeed in their school grades, attendance, and community relations. The foundation recently came back up on its feet after the grant funding dried up. In the beginning of 2016, Officer Gayton helped revive the program, enlisting 15 out of the 25 youth who interviewed. She described their partnership with Cesar Chavez High school and their goal to help students improve their performance in society. Officer Gayton and a few other probation officers on the panel specifically accepted Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore because of their excitement to enter the program and their willingness to succeed. The witness additionally testified to Enrique’s quiet character,but protective of his mother, while Elijah was described as “excited” and “happy.” It was also very clear to her that both Moore and Rios were friends working together.
Officer Gayton explained their curriculum in the program between August 2016 and October 2016. Moore and Rios would work on various construction projects and in return receive paychecks every two weeks on Fridays, while also attending school. Probation officers would sometimes even provide transportation, picking and dropping them off, to ensure their high attendance. Officer Gayton believes if they had continued working there, they would have been both successful – within their six weeks of enrollment, both Rios’ and Moore’s grades skyrocketed, alongside their attendance, compared to their earlier years in high school. Attorney for the People, Mr. Hasapes, entered Exhibit 1 and 2 into evidence, proving this academic performance.
However, approaching the middle of October 2016, Enrique Rios did not attend work, in fact neither his mother nor his relatives could reach him. Mr. Hasapes announced that, after October 17, Enrique was seen nowhere, not even to pick up his paycheck.
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira proceeded to cross-examine the witness. She first questioned whether Officer Gayton knew Enrique and Elijah were co-defendants at some point, while the witness responded, denying this knowledge. Ms. Sequeira inquired how these two could possibly be friends. The two were additionally placed under the no-association clause.
The defense continued to probe into the specifics, asking if the witness knew that Enrique tested positive for cocaine use. Officer Gayton claimed not to remember this matter, until her memory was refreshed by reports, and it was confirmed Mr. Rios indeed tested positive. She then informed the court of Moore’s robberies at the time he was enrolled in the program, but Officer Gayton was unaware of these actions.
Before Ms. Sequeira continued, however, Judge David Rosenberg interrupted to warn the jury that attorney questions do not equate to being evidence.
The prosecution resumed their examination on redirect, asking the witness to describe Moore’s demeanor after Enrique had gone missing. She described him as less happy, often sad and quiet.
Officer Gayton finished her testimony, informing the court that both boys would have been successful in the program. The rest of Ms. Sequeira’s cross-examination, she rebutted this point, arguing whether Moore’s robberies and Enrique’s positive drug test during their enrollment could be considered “successful.”
In the next hour, the prosecution summoned another probation officer, a Mr. Gonzalez. But before Mr. Hasapes could proceed, Juror 10 and Juror 12 recognized this witness. Judge Rosenberg consequently intervened to question the jurors’ impartiality. While Juror 12 confirmed his fairness, the other juror doubted whether he could judge in all fairness, knowing Officer Gonzalez is an “honest” person. Regardless, Judge Rosenberg decided to keep Juror 10, under the condition that the prosecution asks the witness only a few factual questions and nothing opinion-based. In light of this matter, Ms. Sequeira informed the court that defense counsel objected – after all, these two men once worked together.
The trial then resumed with Officer Gonzalez taking the stand, and he was evidently the driver for Rios and Moore.
The following witness, “LV,” is the grandmother of Enrique Rios. She described her discomfort in court, and then proceeded to discuss the nature of her relationship with Enrique. LV explained her grandson was often happy, joking, silly, and excited, especially when he received his uniform from YCCP. He would often return her calls after a couples of tries, but after October 17 he never did. LV finished her testimony by informing the court, if he could, Enrique would contact her no matter what.
A short silence passed until Attorney Hasapes called Enrique’s stepfather. “PG” has been married to Rios’ mother for seven years, and knew Enrique since he was nine years old. He described his relationship with her son as respectful, close, and friendly, and agreed that if Enrique were still alive, he would contact him.
Soon after, Attorney Sequeira began her cross, inquiring whether PG knew any of Enrique’s friends well, and if he also knew what kind of trouble Enrique was in. To both questions, PG could not answer with precision.
The final witness for the day, “JP,” appeared in the courtroom. He explained his close high school friendship with Mr. Rios, and explained Enrique’s “big heart” and protectiveness of his family. But, JP also highlighted Enrique’s constant marijuana use and disobedience of curfew rules.
At this point, the judge ended the day’s testimony and asked the jury members to return the next day at 9am sharp.