By Christina D.
On September 6, 2016, in Department 14, the jury trial resumed for Samantha Green, who is charged with the second-degree murder of her 19-day-old infant, Justice Rees. Witness testimony from Detective Nyland and Green’s ex-boyfriend and father of the baby, Frank Rees, explored the extent of Green’s drug use, and its influence on her actions.
In addition to testimony, audio recordings of jail calls on March 9, 2015, from Green to Rees were played. During the calls, Green admitted to taking too much “dope” and not getting enough sleep, making her unable to discern what was real or not about her surroundings, until she was at the hospital. Green then told Rees that there wasn’t actually anyone chasing her on the night of her disappearance. During the consecutive calls, Rees repeatedly tried to reaffirm with Green that she was telling him the truth and wasn’t just buckling under the investigation; he had concerns that law enforcement was trying to implicate him and Green.
Then the prosecution played a one-hour audio recording of an interview between Green and Nyland that occurred on March 30, 2015. Green revealed her fears, implying Rees had prior knowledge that everything was going happen. She also mentioned for the first time that Rees dissolved and filtered crystal methamphetamine with acetone. Rees used acetone because it made the meth “more pure,” and more potent. He was careful to buy “pure acetone,” and stored it in a nail polish remover bottle. Green said that Rees had given her some meth to use in the morning before she took the children to school.
In his testimony, Rees, the defense’s first witness to be called, said that he met Green through mutual friends. They had only hung out a few times before she moved in with him, but it wasn’t anything Rees considered as dating.
During Green’s pregnancy, Rees admitted to driving his parents’ cars without a driver’s license. There was also an old Range Rover in a shop down the street that he was trying to obtain by working out a deal with the shop owner. Also, Green was using marijuana and meth more than once a week, up until three months before she gave birth.
Rees said in his testimony that they named their baby “Justice” due to a friend’s idea of naming twins “Felony” and “Justice.” However, Green said in her March 30 interview that she named her baby after her father.
Rees openly testified that he received free food vouchers from the hospital, and showered frequently there as well. He said he often showered to rid himself of the smell of cigarette smoke before visiting the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Rees testified that he was always running down to the NICU to feed Justice. He also left the hospital sometimes to get clothes and give his parents a break from taking care of his other four children. While Green was in the hospital, there were three other women friends, “SS,” “AJ,” and “SC,” who also helped watch over the children.
Rees said that Green was limited in her activities after her C-section, and was a little depressed that she couldn’t help take care of the kids. Rees did have sex with Green while she was recovering. He also arranged for Green to leave the hospital for a date, around a week and a half after Justice was born. The two of them drank, and might have used meth. Rees testified that, although he knew how to prepare a butt shot, he didn’t remember if Green took one on their date night, and he did not administer one to Green on that night.
Rees testified that he was an active participant during the February 9, 2015, CPS (Child Protective Services, now also called Child Welfare Services) meeting about bringing Justice home. He said, before the meeting, he always had his children with him, except for when he did time in prison and drug rehabilitation at Walter’s House. Rees said he obtained Medi-Cal for everyone in the family, but benefits and services deteriorated when the CPS cases closed. He was convinced that there were no open CPS cases for any of his children by February of 2015.
Rees acknowledged his habit of leaving the home in the middle of the night, to use drugs and/or go fishing. He would leave through the window, but said he always checked up on the children sleeping in the living room before he left. He and Green shared one bedroom, his parents each used their own separate bedroom, and his children “camped out” on the two couches in the living room. Rees could also check the cameras set up in the house, using his phone.
He said there were a few times during Green’s pregnancy when he left in the night because he needed a break. He also received phone calls from Green while he was gone, asking where he was and for him to come back. Green had concerns because Rees had admitted to cheating with AJ early on in his relationship with Green. Rees also testified that, the weekend before her disappearance, Green stayed the night at her sister’s place because he had cheated on her with AJ again.
Rees testified that he didn’t go looking for drugs after the CPS meeting, nor did he look for SS, one of his female friends who was also his ex-wife. However, Det. Nyland testified that SS had said Rees asked her for drugs on the same day as the CPS meeting.
Rees often responded with “don’t know” or “don’t remember” when asked about using meth, but admitted to frequently and regularly smoking marijuana, even when Justice was alive. He claimed to always use the drugs in his parents’ garage, away from the children. Rees also said that he and Green quit using meth, but later testified that he was supporting Green in leaving the house to use meth where she couldn’t be seen.
The week before Green’s disappearance, Rees used meth a few times. Late during the night on February 22, he got high on meth, while Green used a butt shot in the early morning of February 23. They had sex before Rees passed out around 1:48am. He said he only saw Green use meth once. The next morning, Rees could hardly stand because of pain in his abdomen and testicles, and didn’t go with Green to take the kids to school.
When Green came back, Rees left with her to get gas for both his parents’ cars. A friend, “MC,” had asked for a ride through Facebook Messenger, but Green was upset about it because Rees mentioned having a threesome with her. Though they were only a little more than a mile away from their home, Rees and Green were going to drive both cars to meet MC. They were both going to pick up MC, but Rees wanted to drive the convertible, so they needed two cars to have enough space.
In the end, Green drove home while Rees went to Knights Landing to pick up MC. He got a text from Green around 9-10am, saying she was “on her way.” Rees thought he had responded, “Where?” but later saw that his message didn’t go through. He testified that his phone was working all morning, until that point, when service was turned off due to an unpaid bill. Rees stopped the car by the road to figure out what went wrong with his phone, but he had already picked up MC, and ended up “messing around” with her. Rees testified that he used drugs and had sex with MC.
The car battery died because the radio and high beams were on the whole time, and it took them an hour to find someone to jump their car. Rees dropped off MC and returned home around noon. Not finding Green at home, Rees messaged his friend “CF” about her. Rees had gotten a text, along with a “sinister smile emoji,” around 11am from CF saying he was in the garage at Rees’ home.
Though he never had anything bad to say about Green before, CF told Rees he had seen Green, and that she disrespected him by refusing to give him a ride. CF also said that their Turbo Tax account was deactivated. Rees had promised to pay CF and two other people $500 each if they could get his $5400 tax return. Rees also owed CF $120 for drugs. Rees suspected Green of deactivating the Turbo Tax account and phone services.
Around 1pm, Valerie Zeller from CPS showed up. At 2:48pm, Rees called the elementary school to see if Green had gone to pick up the kids. He was told that his dad was picking them up, one at a time, in the convertible. Then MC asked for another ride back to Knights Landing. Rees picked her up, and they had sex again.
On the morning of February 24, Rees called CF again, and met up with him and another friend, “SR,” in the garage. Neither appeared sober, and asked for water to mix and do meth. By then, Green’s sister “AG” had talked to an officer about Green and Justice being missing persons. Rees only found out about that through a friend, but couldn’t get in touch with Green.
On the morning of February 25, Rees talked to Green on the phone, then went straight to the hospital afterward. He drove Green to the B.E.A.R. (Bridging Evidence Assessment & Resources) Center in Sacramento, with two detectives following in another car.
Rees testified that a lot of media reached out to him, asking for interviews. He agreed to do one for News 10 if they could give him something nice to wear. He said he was embarrassed because he didn’t have nice clothes for an interview, but that the clothes weren’t a contingency. Rees also received a message from people at the Dr. Phil Show; he was told the show could help, but he didn’t know how.
Rees recognized his writing and drawing in a journal. He had written around Halloween of 2014 that he “needs to be a better father,” “something is about to happen,” and “I’m out.” The drawing was of a person’s back, with a knife in the back. Additionally, Rees testified that, while Green was pregnant, his kids made comments about the devil after watching a movie. His ex-wife SS showed up at the house one time at 3:30am, pushing a shopping cart and wearing a bikini. Rees said SS had one of her episodes, and claimed to have had sex with the devil.
Rees testified that he received many letters from Green, filled with drawings and cartoon cutouts, and that he was figuring out how to get married while she was in prison. In May 2015, he abruptly received a break up letter, and hasn’t talked to Green since.
Nyland also said he had reviewed statements from the friends of Green and Rees, CF and SR. They both saw Green at the Rees home around noon on February 23, 2015. Det. Nyland was part of a search warrant of the Rees house on March 6, 2015. He found in Rees and Green’s room a gun safe belonging to Rees’ father, “WR.”
The trial will resume on September 7, 2016, in Department 14, Judge David Rosenberg presiding.