By Tiffany Yeh
The second day of the preliminary hearing happened on February 19, 2016. The two charges brought forward are murder and conspiracy. Defense Attorney Temica Smith is representing Jorge Garcia and Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson is representing co-defendant Lane Ornellascastro, mostly referred to as Lane Castro in court.
Judge David Reed held both defendants to answer on the charges.
Detective Mike Glaser was the first prosecution witness of the afternoon. He is a detective with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department. He attended the autopsy of Andrew Phaouthoum. The victim had a bullet hole at his left temple by his eyebrow and another bullet hole at the top of his head, on the right side of his head above his ear. Crime Scene Investigator Ms. Gill removed a bullet from the victim’s head.
The bullet inside the victim’s head was near his right earlobe. It is suspected to be a .38 caliber lead, solid core bullet.
A friend of the victim’s family told Detective Glaser that he has a roommate who set up a meeting for the victim with Jorge Garcia and another person, perhaps female, on November 30, 2015. On that date, Phaouthoum and Garcia exchanged telephone numbers.
A search warrant was issued for Mr. Garcia, and Mr. Garcia’s residence and vehicle were search. Detective Glaser downloaded all the data from Mr. Garcia’s cell phone. There was a van registered to Jorge Garcia.
CSI Gill and others looked inside the van and saw possible blood at the driver’s side near the door. In the van’s cup holder, there was a substance that appeared to be blood, which was below the center console. The backseat row of the van, on the carpet below, had blood also. Blood and hair were found in the trunk of the van, along with a piece of plastic. On the right panel of the van, there was a smudge on the plastic that appeared to be blood.
A cell phone bill from MetroPCS that had Mr. Garcia’s name on it and was dated December 12, 2015, was in the van. On December 16, 2015, Detective Glaser met with a female employee of MetroPCS. She remembered seeing the subject on a prior date.
Mr. Garcia had wanted to upgrade his phone and get a new cell phone. He paid the upgrade costs, got a new phone, and a new phone number. The new phone number had a different area code number (the first 3 digits) than his old cell phone number.
The second prosecution witness was Detective Charles Hoyt. He also works for the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department. At a slough in the Clarksburg area, a body was found, and that body was later identified as that of Andrew Phaouthoum.
The victim was found partially submerged in the water of the slough. The left eyebrow area of his head had a small hole. Det. Hoyt stated that the hole appeared consistent with an entrance from a bullet. A set of car keys and a scan card for Rite Aid were also found.
Detective Hoyt consulted with Lieutenant Hernan Oviedo from the Yolo Sheriff’s Records Dept., giving him a description of the decreased. Lt. Oviedo looked through missing persons reports, and there was one that had physical descriptions which matched the deceased; that report was from Sacramento.
Then, he contacted the Sacramento Police Department Records Division. In the report, the location when the victim was last seen was at the Bel Air grocery store in Sacramento, on Florin Road.
The victim’s brother had filed the missing person’s report.
Detective Hoyt searched DMV records for vehicles and information associated with the victim, and a vehicle was found to have been registered under the victim’s name.
The vehicle, a white 1999 sedan, was found at the parking lot of the Bel Air grocery store. He then looked at the parking lot surveillance footage that was provided from the grocery store.
Detective Hoyt ran a license plate check after confirming that the victim was the person from the missing person’s list. He watched all the footage of December 11, 2015, from 6 p.m. to the store’s closing.
From the footage, around 7:31 p.m., one person was seen to have left the 1999 sedan while another person stayed inside the vehicle.
A van arrived at the lot. A male from the first vehicle got out and retrieved something from inside, then approached the front seat of the van. Activity occurred inside the van for a period of time, then it accelerated and left the parking lot with its lights off. When the van had initially arrived at the parking lot, it had its lights on.
Detective Brian Young from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department provided Detective Hoyt with the victim’s cell phone. The last person to text the victim was Jorge Garcia. Det. Hoyt ran Mr. Garcia’s phone number with a program or service called Wooster. Lt. Oviedo had suggested using Wooster to search for information associated with the phone number.
Wooster provides information such as numbers and addresses when phone numbers are researched. Detective Hoyt tried to locate an address for Mr. Garcia.
A residence associated with Mr. Garcia was searched. His mother, father, and three young siblings also live there.
Mr. Garcia’s younger brother told the detective that, on December 11, 2015, Garcia had driven his van to go to work, but had not been back home at his usual time. The younger brother went upstairs at 9 p.m., and texted a girl at 10 p.m. Sometime around then, he heard a vehicle pulling up in front of the house and the dogs did not react, leading him to think that was his brother, coming home.
On December 22, 2015, around noon, all the family members were in the Garcia residence when Garcia was arrested by police officers.
Jorge Garcia’s best friend has known the defendant for over two years. They worked together and also sold weed (marijuana) together around the Rio Vista area. Through the friend’s sister and the person present at the meeting between the defendant and the victim, this friend got to know Lane Castro, and Castro also worked with him. Castro has a Wilga bear (a miniature handmade teddy bear) tattooed on one of his shoulders. Garcia’s best friend knew that Garcia would pick up Castro in front of his (Castro’s) home.
Sometimes, they would got to cannabis stores. The best friend and Garcia sold weed together, as indicated, and would go to cannabis clubs. Areas around Rio Vista were places they would go to sell weed. They had bought a ¼-pound of weed before, and also used weed to make “wax,” or butane honey oil.
A friend of the victim stated that the victim did not have a job but wore high-end clothing. The victim would sell up to 1-pound amounts of weed. The friend was familiar with Jorge Garcia’s phone number. He did say that a different phone number was also associated with Jorge.
A phone was recovered. Data was extracted from Mr. Garcia’s phone via a search warrant. Detective Hoyt looked through some of Garcia’s text messages. There were text messages regarding the investigation into Mr. Phaouthoum’s death. Information that had not been released to the public by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept. was discussed in text messages on Mr. Garcia’s phone.
An ongoing text discussed streets being taped off, something about “pigs and s— there,” and hoping there were no video cameras at the grocery store.
Discussion about going to work the following day was also in some texts. An incoming text discussed that 5 a.m. was too early, then there was something about dropping off a work badge (outgoing text), then something about she is dropping off the work badge so he can sleep in. Detective Hoyt believed that Mr. Garcia and the individual with whom he was exchanging texts worked together. The other person was identified with the name of “Joker” in the phone.
A work ID card was found in Garcia’s vehicle. Garcia was arrested in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia. Detective Hoyt went back to retrieve Garcia’s ID badge, and was able to acquire it from Garcia’s family.
In the van, there was a similar ID with Lane Castro’s name on it, with the same employer’s name on it (a window company in Vacaville.)
The detective spoke with a woman from a hiring agency about Garcia and Castro. The two peoples’ employment histories were discussed. Both were assigned to jobs at the window company from December 3, 2015, to December 11, 2015. They were first hired on September 30 in 2015. They were terminated from the window company job on December 11, 2015 for not showing up or calling in (and this was the day that the victim was killed.) Detective Hoyt believed that Mr. Castro was involved, so he obtained an arrest and search warrant for Castro.
Castro’s girlfriend described having two children with Castro. They were dating, and Castro would appear at her residence periodically. She described Castro as living with his uncle in Fairfield. She knew Castro had been working for a window company in Vacaville. Garcia would pick up and drop off Castro, and the two would communicate via phone.
Garcia was supposed to leave Castro’s badge at her house door, but that day Mr. Garcia never returned.
“Joker” had requested in Garcia’s texts that Garcia “leave the badge on the door.”
Castro’s girlfriend knew that Garcia had purchased a firearm with a middle part that spun (a revolver.) She had seen it before but did not know where Mr. Garcia stored it.
According to Detective Hoyt, it was around 7:30 p.m. (per the video’s time stamp) when Garcia’s van was seen driving into the parking lot with its lights on. The van was driving at a regular speed. Garcia pulled up to a parking spot (in a separate parking aisle from the 1999 sedan).
A male got out of the sedan, took something out of his own trunk, walked around, and got into the front passenger seat of Garcia’s van.
The van spent about two minutes and 19 seconds in the parking lot before pulling out of the lot. When the van left, it was obvious that it was accelerating westbound, with no headlights on. It was already dark out.
Another man had gotten into the van very quickly.
Detective Hoyt spoke with Garcia’s best friend. Mr. Garcia and the best friend worked together selling hashish, an extraction from cannabis. The best friend described that Garcia brought Castro over to his house. Castro had to wait outside a cannabis club because he had no medical cannabis card that time.
The woman from the hiring agency recalled that Garcia was reported as working on the day of December 11, 2015.
The next prosecution witness was Detective Brian Young, of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept. He described the victim’s brother as telling him that, on the evening of December 11, 2015, he and his brother, Andrew, went to the Bel Air grocery store in Sacramento. The brother went into the grocery store. Andrew Phaouthoum had stayed inside the vehicle and had handed his brother his cell phone. The brother had expected Andrew to come into the grocery store with him.
The brother was worried (apparently finding his brother gone) and called his parents, and later filed a missing person’s report.
When a search warrant was served at Jorge Garcia’s house, marijuana (a couple of different bags, 1/2-ounces, butter, scraps and shake) were found at the house. It was not a small amount, described the detective.
Detective Young also reviewed the texts on the phone of the person who accompanied Garcia to the meeting with the victim on November 30. On December 4, 2015, there was a text message stating something about “lick, no dough, can’t wait until next Friday.” The detective clarified that a “lick” is slang for a robbery.
Lane Castro was also arrested. Det. Young drove Castro to the police station. He gave Miranda warnings to Castro. He described wanting to “get Castro’s side of the story,” and talked with Mr. Castro. He knew that Castro was a co-worker of Mr. Garcia’s.
First they had been together with the temp agency that assigned the window job to them. Jorge Garcia would give Lane Castro rides to and from work. One day, he told the detective, Garcia didn’t show up to pick up Castro after work.
Garcia and Castro would sometimes smoke marijuana together. Garcia would drive a van, or sometimes his mother’s SUV.
Castro’s work ID and safety goggles were inside Garcia’s van – on the seat on the passenger’s side.
At the beginning when Det. Young questioned Castro, Mr. Castro denied association with the text messages. When asked whether he had done anything wrong, Castro replied that he “didn’t believe so.”
Both Castro and Garcia had gone to the Bel Air parking lot to buy weed from Andrew Phaouthoum, the victim. It was to be a ½-pound of marijuana. The victim and Mr. Garcia got into an argument and Castro (sitting in the backseat) believed that the victim was going for a gun. No gun was found on the victim.
Castro shot Andrew while Garcia was in the driver’s seat. Andrew had been sitting in the front passenger seat. After the shot to the victim’s head, both Castro and Garcia were scared. Garcia took off driving.
They went to a secluded location, the slough, and both defendants removed the victim from the van. Castro shot Andrew (again) because he thought he saw Andrew twitching. They moved his body into the slough.
The amount of money Castro provided as his part for buying the marijuana from the victim was $300. Castro told Det. Young that he believed that Garcia retrieved the money and the weed.
Castro described taking off his own clothing and putting his clothes in a dumpster near his residence.
The pistol used in the crime had been purchased by Castro in Lodi, and was thrown away by Castro after a week. He tossed it in a river.
Castro had given Garcia some paper towels to clean up the van.
Castro was arrested at home, just after midnight. He had been home with his family. Castro was driven to the sheriff’s department.
Castro had been a Marine combat engineer and was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, having served a two-year deployment.
Detective Young’s interview of Mr. Castro’s in the interview room was recorded. The detective wrote a report about the interview. The interview (including the time Mr. Castro sat by himself) was about two hours.
As, indicated, Castro had been read his Miranda rights. Later, he expressed wanting to call his family and wanting to get a lawyer. The detective spoke with a sergeant.
Det. Young had then clarified the Miranda rights. Castro didn’t want to waive his rights. The detective stepped outside and, after two minutes, Castro knocked on the door, asked the detective if he could talk. The detective advised him of his Miranda rights again. Castro then expressed that he didn’t believe he did anything wrong at the time.
Castro explained that what had happened was that Garcia and he were just trying to buy weed. Castro was sitting in the backseat and Andrew got into the front seat.
Garcia and Andrew had an argument about what amount of weed they should get from Andrew. Garcia said that the amount wasn’t enough (for the price). Andrew flexed and turned toward Garcia (who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the car), Garcia reacted in fear, and pulled away.
Castro reached toward his right side, as he thought Andrew was going for a gun and was going to shoot Garcia (“he’s going to kill us”).
Mr. Castro said he had just reacted, like when he was in the Marines. He said there was no plan to rob the victim. Castro said he had no knowledge of Garcia ever robbing people. Garcia had mentioned the good deal that they were going to get (on the weed).
Castro said that he carried his revolver with him always. When the investigator brought up Castro’s service in the Marines, asking if his conduct had something to do with serving in the military (“do you think this is where it’s coming from?”), Castro looked down at the ground, and nodded his head up and down.
Castro replied that his wife thinks that’s what’s wrong with him. His wife called him crazy before. Castro said that it was the five-year anniversary of his best friend’s death and that it was his best friend’s birthday that weekend also.
The victim was not breathing or moving – it was when they were pulling Andrew’s body out of the vehicle that Castro thought Andrew twitched, and that’s when he shot him again. This was a shot to the back of Andrew’s head. The back of Garcia’s van and the windshield had bullet strikes. There was an expended bullet inside the van. The bullet was the same as Castro’s gun’s bullets.
The text about the bullets went something like: “need a lick ASAP… can’t wait til next Friday when I get paid.” In the report, Castro said he believed that Garcia took the money back after the failed drug deal.
Count 1: Murder is charged against both Castro and Garcia. An enhancement (1a) is against Garcia: murder during attempt of felony (holding order on this.) An enhancement (1b) is against Castro, for possessing a personal firearm. The third enhancement (1c) is against Garcia, for possessing an armed firearm. Count 2: Conspiracy of robbery (intended robbery) is charged against Castro.
Judge Reed ruled that there was sufficient evidence for all the charges and that both defendants would be held to answer for them. The arraignment on the information will occur on March 16, 2016, at 9 a.m. in Dept.8.