By Christina D.
On August 30, 2016, in Department 14, jury trial resumed for Samantha Green, who is charged with the second-degree murder of her 19-da- old infant, Justice Rees. In addition to showing a visual and audio recording of an interview with Green before she was arrested, the prosecution called witnesses to testify as to their investigations on baby Justice and Green. The 2-hour 44-minute interview by Detective Dean Nyland was recorded and took place on February 25, 2015, at 4pm.
In the interview video, Green claimed to have prepared breakfast for herself and for the other three kids of her boyfriend, Frank Rees. She then drove the three children to school, and returned home. At home, she became upset that Rees received a message and wanted to go pick up a woman named “Monica.” Green attributed her unwillingness to pick up Monica to jealousy, and Frank Rees’ past request to have a threesome with her and Monica.
She and Mr. Rees eventually left the house in separate cars, to cash a check from Rees’ mother “PR,” and to fill both cars with gas. After doing that, Green told Detective Nyland, she decided not to pick up Monica, and went home instead.
When Green got back, she saw Rees’ friend “Cary” with his girlfriend “Sharon” standing in the driveway. They asked her where Rees was, and Green said Sharon was smiling eerily. Green went inside to change baby Justice’s diaper and prepare a bottle of formula, then returned to the Chevy Traverse she was driving, having changed her mind again about meeting Monica. When Green got back to the car, Cary and Sharon were gone, and the car doors were unlocked, even though she thought she locked them. Green then headed to the north levee in Knights Landing to find Monica, even though she knew it was around time to pick up Rees’ three children from school at 2:15pm.
Officer Benjamin Yen from the Woodland Police Department had testified that he spoke with Rees’ father, “WR,” about his encounter with Green on the day of her disappearance. Around 1pm on February 23, WR asked Green to return his cell phone, which she agreed to do after she deleted some items. She asked WR for a phone charger, but was given a part of it. WR found his Chevy Traverse missing afterwards.
In the video recording of her interview, Green said she arrived at Knights Landing around 3 or 4pm, with baby Justice, and started to walk along the levee in search of Rees and Monica. Seeing no one and starting to feel dizzy and queasy in a way she had never experienced in her life, Green turned back toward her car but saw that Cary had appeared. Green said in her interview that Cary proceeded to pull down her top, and touched her breasts. Green then ran away, holding her baby, her purse, and her diaper bag. She ran down from the top of the levee to the water, and swam across the river to get away from Cary.
Deputy Sheriff Mike Ha from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office was assigned to follow up with leads in baby Justice’s case. On February 26 and 27, he investigated the alibi of Cary, or “CF,” for his whereabouts on February 23, 2015, using surveillance videos from Yolobus and Bank of America. CF was accused by Green of sexual assault. Surveillance videos showed CF on the Yolobus on February 23, 2015 at 2:06pm to 2:53pm, going from Woodland to Sacramento. CF said he then went to Zee Jewelers in Sacramento, and returned to Woodland afterwards. Surveillance from Bank of America in Woodland showed CF in front of its ATM at 4:44pm.
In her interview, Green said she passed a red fence before going down rocky terrain while running from the top of the levee to the water. She insisted that she hadn’t fallen once on the way, even when Det. Nyland told her he tried to run down the exact same path, but found it too steep and couldn’t make it to the water without falling a dozen times.
Green also said that, while swimming across the river, she held Justice above the water with her right hand, and lost the purse, diaper bag, and shoes she was holding in the other. She also said she lost the baby blanket that was wrapped around Justice. After making it to the opposite shore, Green said she kept pushing forward by the water at the bottom of the levee. She could hear footsteps chasing after her, but couldn’t see anyone. All she wanted to do was keep her baby safe. It was getting dark by the time she stopped, and she sat down to lean against a tree. Green said Justice had been crying the entire time.
Then she passed out, and drifted in and out of consciousness throughout the night. Green said it was cold and dark, and she wasn’t able to move the couple of times she awoke. One time, she wasn’t sure if she actually woke up or was dreaming, but she said she saw that Cary was there. In the morning, she found that she wasn’t in the same position as before, and her pants were down “past her butt.” Justice was not in her arms anymore, and she started to cry when she found that he was cold, stiff, and not crying. She then left him to go find help, telling him she would be back. Green wandered until she was eventually discovered by a passerby, who called 911.
Patrol Sergeant Dean Nyland worked as a detective at the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office in 2015, and was responsible for locating the missing baby, then for determining the circumstances of death. He responded to a radio call on February 24, 2015 around 5:30pm, and arrived at the north levee around 6pm. Nyland saw Green in an ambulance on site, proceeded to search for Justice, and eventually established the crime scene where the baby was found on the south levee. Nyland then interviewed Green the next day.
In the beginning, Green said she had worn her coat across the river, and used it to replace the blanket that was covering Justice. Then, in the middle of her interview, Nyland told her they found her coat. It was completely dry, with no sign of it being wet, and Green responded that she had laid it out to dry over a night and a day. Then Nyland told her the coat was found nowhere near Justice, even though Green said she wrapped it around him. Green then said she had taken her coat off before swimming across.
After hearing Green relate her experience at Knights Landing, Nyland tried to confirm multiple times that Green had not taken any drugs on Monday, February 23, 2015. Green maintained several times that she had not taken methamphetamine on Monday, but had used a bowl of it on Sunday. She said she was stressed because Frank Rees was not giving as much attention to the kids as she was. Rees’ mother, PR, had also told the kids that Rees and Green would love the new baby more, causing more stress because Green felt and treated them like her own children.
Under pressuring from Nyland that she either made a tragic mistake or intentionally killed her child, Green affirmed that she had taken an anxiety pill in the morning that may have influenced her perception later in the day. However, after more pressing, Green admitted that she not only took the pill and used meth on Sunday, but also took five hits of meth on Monday morning.
Following the recorded audio conversation between Detective Tamara Polay and Green that was played in court yesterday, Det. Polay testified today that she was the one who collected Green’s clothing as evidence. After Green was taken from the levee, Polay took her peachy-pink tank top and black spandex pants. The pants were wet when collected, and had one leg ripped along the seam. It would have been longer if not torn, and Polay later found the missing torn piece in Green’s hair, where she had been using it as a ponytail holder.
“TS” first made contact with Green when she worked as a mental health clinician from the California Forensic Medical Group. TS testified that on March 1 and March 8 of 2015, Green had no visual or audio hallucinations, but had poor insight and judgment, particularly in understanding the gravity of her case. She showed an inappropriate affect (visual presentation/emotions of face), and expected to be bailed out. However, TS also noted that there could be delayed mental health symptoms, and once the gravity of the situation hit, Green may be a danger to her or others. Green complained about receiving food and prison commissary times. On March 22, Green’s chief complaint was that the medical staff was too loud when she was trying to sleep. She was also angry about rules and the time she was allowed out of her cell. Green had nightmares and flashbacks, and was on administrative segregation (ad seg) status.
Inmates on ad seg are not allowed to interact with others while out of their cell. While Green was in the Yolo County Jail, “JA” was a mental health clinician in charge of checking in on Green daily, as Green was placed on mental health observation. JA noted that Green may understand the seriousness of her case after arraignment, though she didn’t seem to at the time. Green showed no intellectual disability and seemed completely normal, even up to November of 2015. However, TS did report that, in the beginning of March, Green was depressed, suffered verbal abuse from other inmates, and was crying on the day she signed for Justice’s cremation while overhearing that another female inmate just had a baby.
TS testified that Green did put in a “blue card” request, and received one-on-one visits from a sexual assault-domestic abuse counselor. On March 9, she said she was “done” with her fiancé, and that she found he was cheating on her the day she “took off.”
“AA” was Green’s high school teacher for English 12 in 2009-2010. He testified that Green was an average student who received C’s for all four marking periods, and that he noted no disability or anything unusual back then.
“EM” was Green’s past employer at Freebirds World Burrito for around a year in 2014, and trained her to become an assistant general manager. He testified that Green was a capable, assertive and intelligent employee. When she worked on the line at the cafeteria-style bar for customizing orders, she sometimes became frustrated if another employee messed up the progression of the assembly line. On her bad days, she had trouble with time management, but was receptive to redirection. She usually biked to work.
The interview video will continue playing on August 31, 2016.