By Haroutun Bejanyan
The preliminary hearing of Kelly Dema Carew, 26, for the alleged murder of Herbert Ublic Rhodes, 60, concluded on July 8, 2015, after three days in session. Judge Stephen Mock ruled the existence of sufficient evidence under Penal Code section 187(a) to set in motion an arraignment on the date of July 23, 2015, at 9:00am. The incident involving the defendant, Carew, and the victim, Rhodes, took place at the Great Value Inn, a West Sacramento motel at 1432 West Capitol Avenue, on June 17 between the early morning hours of 4:00am and 5:00am. Among the witnesses who testified against Carew and identified her as the female assailant at the scene of the crime were Great Value Inn residents, crime scene investigators assigned to the crime scene, and police officers dispatched to the location.
Of the two testifying crime scene investigators (CSIs), one was assigned to room 21, where the altercation between Carew and Rhodes seems to have begun, and the other was assigned to the parking lot, where Rhodes’ body was found face down near the front office when officers arrived on scene. Both CSIs’ testimonies were based on the descriptive reports they conducted on the condition of the scenes upon their arrival. The first CSI’s report revealed a room in disarray with a blood trail from the head of the bed, following along around the bed, leading to pools of blood in the interior entryway to room 21 and blood spatter around the door frame.
The bathroom, however, had a significantly minimal amount of blood, only two drops found on the outside of the door. Many of the items in the bathroom were missing, including the mirror, toilet seat and cover, shower curtains and rod. There is a window in the bathroom with security bars that would make it impossible for a person to climb through. The missing items from the bathroom were located outside in the alleyway below the bathroom window along with prescription medication and miscellaneous pills.
The testimony of the second CSI, assigned to the parking lot region outside of room 21, detailed a continuing blood trail that followed from the door, through the center of the lot, and ended at the body lying near the front office of the motel. Beside the body were a few bricks with blood spatter on them and scattered about were four pieces of a white metal rod with blood spatter on three of them. This same CSI also examined Carew’s body and made note of eight to ten visible injuries that looked like elongated scratches to her chest, left leg, buttocks and hands, with blood spatter on her legs and arms.
In her testimony, the second CSI also recounted the June 18 autopsy of Rhodes’ body, which revealed an estimated 20-30 injuries, with at least 10 fatal blows to the head. In addition to the blunt trauma and severe fractures to the skull, there were punctures found on the elbows, hands and top of feet that may be possible stab wounds.
One of the initial officers, who responded to the call at 4:43am, gave his testimony on the second day of the preliminary trial. When he arrived on scene he noticed a male body, later identified as Rhodes, lying unresponsive face down, and a female suspect, Carew, standing just four feet from the body. She was wearing miscellaneous clothing that included a black hat, white shirt and a single legging, and she was barefoot. As the officer recounted, Carew’s first words were that her brother was inside and she was defending herself, and then asked she if she could wash the blood off.
It was clearly apparent, as the officer recalls, that Carew was incoherent in her remarks and was behaving erratically, exhibiting uncontrolled body movements. The officer was able to place her in handcuffs with the help of a fellow officer, as she was having trouble remaining still.
The other officer who also testified was the detective lead investigator in charge of the Carew case. In his testimony, the detective said he spoke to Carew at 10:00am, making sure to give her a Miranda warning beforehand, which rights were then waived by Carew.
The statement the detective received from Carew explained that she had met Rhodes that very morning, after midnight, and went with him back to his room. The detective recounted that in her statement there was no exchange of sexual favors. However, she said that she did agree to take her clothes off for some photographs, but was vague about any exchange of money.
After she was partially undressed, Rhodes allegedly did not allow her to leave, provoking Carew to hit him in the head and flee to the bathroom to lock herself in. When she opened the bathroom door after some time had passed, she saw he was still conscious and she continued to strike him as he fled out the door, where she followed him out to the front office in the parking lot. The detective recalled during his testimony that Carew referred to Rhodes as a “rabid dog” and that she “…had to use the bricks to finish him off.”
The detective also mentioned that Carew seemed oddly happy as she was recounting the incident and displayed no concern for Rhodes’ condition. The defense questioned the detective’s interpretation of Carew’s demeanor as happy, instead suggesting it could be interpreted as a sign of relief and stress lifted off the shoulders, which the detective agreed could be a possible interpretation.
There was a degree of variation among the testimonies of the motel residents, who recounted the incident as they experienced it. Despite the fact that the other residents remembered waking up around 4:00am to the sound of verbal altercations and the police arriving at 4:43am, one of them recalled waking up at around 5:00am – as she remembered seeing on her phone – to a male voice screaming, “Shut the f*** up, I don’t care.”
According to one of the other residents who was awakened at 4:00am, this witness distinguished a female voice saying numerous times, “Let me out of here,” and a male voice saying numerous times, “Don’t hit me.”
Two other residents, a husband and wife, who were in the same room as each other but testified separately, had discerned yet another set of phrases from the verbal altercation in room 21. They heard a female voice repeating over and over again, “You’re being a good boy daddy,” as well as a muffled male voice uttering a few times, “Open the window.”
The accountability of the husband’s statements were called into question by the defense because he is hearing impaired and could have possibly been influenced by the interpretation of his wife, who was in the same room as him. The man stated that, although his wife usually tends to fill in for things he may have not heard, he was sure that he had identified the phrases he heard independently of her.
This couple, along with another female resident, had witnessed items being physically thrown out of room 21’s window while looking out of their own bathroom windows from the floor above room 21.
Whereas the other residents claim to have gone back to sleep after the noises subsided in room 21, the couple each stated that they went to the front window facing the parking lot and visually observed Carew standing out there with a body at her feet as she repeatedly struck it with what appeared to be a pipe. As they each recalled in their testimonies, Carew then dropped the pipe and walked over to a planter box, picked up a brick, lifted it and threw it down onto the head of the body on the ground two to three times just before they heard sirens blaring in the background.