By Haroutun Bejanyan
Detective Tamara Pelle’s testimony resumed on November 3 in the preliminary examination of Samantha Green, the 23-year-old who faces charges for the murder of her 19-day-old son, Justice Rees.
The remaining portion of the audio recording from the November 2 testimony was played. It was a recording of the interview conducted on February 24, 2015, while Green was being taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
In the audiotaped interview, Detective Pelle, of the Woodland Police Department, was soberly trying to gather and piece together any bits of information from Green that could advise authorities as to the whereabouts of baby Justice, around the nearby Ridge Cut Slough in Knights Landing.
However, Pelle seemed to have difficulty in comprehending Green’s statements, as they were not only verbally obscure but also unintelligible, with seemingly fleeting and scattered thoughts. The detective indicated that it was apparent Green was panicking, out of breath and sobbing uncontrollably.
The defendant was faltering in her attempt to recount the events leading up to that morning, presenting an inconsistent recollection involving numerous gaps in her story.
Regarding the previous night, February 23, 2015, Green mentioned that she thought she was seeing a dream throughout the night, but she was not sure if it really was a dream. She claimed it might have been real. An old man with white hair and glasses appeared before her eyes in her “dream-like” state.
Although she was not sure whether this man was real or not, she revealed that there was a possibility this man sexually assaulted her.
When asked if she had done any drugs on the 23rd, Green replied, “No,” although the detective was not convinced by Green’s reply.
Det. Pelle tried even harder to urgently hone in on the possible location of baby Justice, but yet again was not receiving anything helpful from Green, who repeatedly claimed her memory was hazy.
The first thing Green recalled from the morning of February 24 was waking up feeling lightheaded and achy in the body. Then she said she immediately left her baby to go get help, swimming across the river.
Initially, it was stated that baby Justice was next to her in the morning, however, awhile later, Green contradicted her previous words, stating that she did not think Justice was next to her in the morning, which prompted her to rush for help.
After the audio recording, Public Defender Tracie Olson asked Det. Pelle in cross-examination about her observations of Green during the interview. Det. Pelle believed that Green was coming down from a methamphetamine high, since she was nodding off between statements while her body language still exhibited signs of a lingering adrenaline rush.
From the interview, Det. Pelle also postulated that Green was exercising her selective memory purposely to keep some facts undisclosed. It was odd, she said, that Green could not remember certain aspects from before the event, which she should have been able to do.
The next witness for the prosecution was Sergeant Hernan Oviedo, of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, who responded to the case on February 24, 2015. Along the slough, Sgt. Oviedo had recovered some fragments of physical evidence, including a black pea coat and a piece of torn spandex clothing.
Since Samantha Green reportedly went out to the levee on February 23, Sgt. Oviedo researched the local weather conditions of Knights Landing on that day. Using “localconditions.com”, Oviedo determined that the temperature on February 23 had a high of 62 degrees Fahrenheit at 3:53pm and a low of 41 degrees Fahrenheit at 11:53pm.
The last witness of the day was Sergeant Dean Nyland of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department.
The search for baby Justice began on the afternoon of February 24, with police heading to the 2011 red Chevy Traverse, driven by Green, in order for the police canine to obtain a scent. The police canine was then able to lead the officers along the path that Samantha Green, with Justice in her arms, had trekked on foot the night before.
While traversing the pathway, officers came across a diaper bag containing a few diapers and a bottle of formula. A few feet away lay a damp black jacket.
As officers followed the canine a little further, they located baby Justice sitting up against a tree, with fists clenched tight against the belly and body leaning over to the right. The gray onesie and diaper worn by Justice were both wet and cold. Baby Justice was unresponsive. Officers did not detect a pulse.
The following day on February 25, as well as on the 27th, Sgt. Nyland conducted an interview with Frank Rees, the fiancé of Samantha Green and the father of Justice Rees. Rees recalled that earlier in the evening on February 23, he and Green had had an argument over Rees needing to spend more time with Green and Justice.
Leading up to the argument, a female friend, of both Green and Rees, had contacted them to pick her up from Knights Landing, and they had planned to go to do that together.
On the way there, driving in separate cars, they stopped at a Chevron station, where the argument took place. Green then decided to head back home to Rees’ mother’s house, where they both lived, and Rees proceeded to go pick up their friend from Knights Landing.
During the interview, Rees admitted to Sgt. Nyland that he and the female friend had sex with each other in his car after he picked her up, and again at the boat ramp in Knights Landing. When Rees and the friend did not return to Rees’ mother’s residence, Green grew suspicious and headed over to Knights Landing to find them, taking Justice along with her.
Rees also confessed to Sgt. Nyland that both he and Green were out attempting to score methamphetamine on the 26th, after baby Justice had been found and declared deceased.
Public Defender Olson stepped in for the cross-examination. Ms. Olson referred to a written report from Sgt. Nyland, concerning his interview with Green on the 25th at the Sheriff’s Department.
In his report, Nyland stated, “A portion of Samantha’s statement may have been seeded by Frank at the hospital.” Nyland meant that Frank purposely advised and actively influenced Samantha’s statement when he visited her at the hospital.