By Carla Arango
On the morning of February 28, 2017, in the case of the People v. Lance Richard Ornellas-Castro, Jorge Garcia continued his testimony regarding the events of December 11, 2015, revealing inconsistencies.
Jorge Garcia waived his attorney-client privilege to allow defense attorney Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson to ask questions about Garcia’s conversation with Attorney J. Toney on February 27 at the jail.
The waiver only extended to those conversations, and not to conversations Garcia has had with other attorneys.
Mr. Ornellas-Castro is charged with murder, robbery, and conspiracy to commit a felony, after victim Andrew Phaouthoum died from a single gunshot wound to the head after Ornellas-Castro allegedly shot him from the back seat of Jorge Garcia’s minivan on December 11, 2015.
Deputy District Attorney Melinda Aiello began direct examination of the witness by asking if he had been familiar with the specific requirements of robbery prior to being arrested. Mr. Garcia replied that he wasn’t, but he now knows the definition.
Mr. Garcia testified that on December 11, 2015, the plan was to rob Andrew Phaouthoum by having Ornellas-Castro flash him with a gun and take the drugs.
Mr. Garcia said he and Ornellas-Castro made the plan that same night. “I think it was when we were [at the Bel Air parking lot].”
Mr. Garcia described the narrative of how after work he went with Ornellas-Castro to the Metro PCS store, stopped by a liquor store to buy alcohol and Swishers (cigars), and then stopped at Ornellas-Castro’s house.
Afterward, they drove to Sacramento to meet with Mr. Phaouthoum, Garcia said.
Mr. Garcia said he either set up the deal with Mr. Phaouthoum the day before or the day of the incident. Garcia texted Phaouthoum to obtain more weed after they left the Metro PCS store, Garcia said.
Garcia continued with his testimony saying that, after their stop at Isleton, they planned to rob Phaouthoum. Mr. Garcia called Mr. Phaouthoum when they got closer to Sacramento to set up the meeting location.
According to Garcia, it was at that moment that Ornellas-Castro moved from the front to the back seat. When Garcia got to the parking lot for the meeting, he parked and then Mr. Phaouthoum got in and sat in the passenger seat.
Garcia told the prosecution that he had ordered six ounces of marijuana and a quarter ounce of cocaine. Garcia had $200 and Ornellas-Castro had $300, but it wasn’t enough to buy the drugs.
Garcia said Mr. Phaouthoum handed him the box (of marijuana) and he introduced him to Mr. Ornellas-Castro.
“I was looking at the box and then I just heard the gunshot,” Garcia said.
“They were talking, but I can’t remember what they said,” he added.
When Ms. Aiello asked Mr. Garcia about the volume of the conversation or if he heard them arguing, Garcia said he couldn’t remember.
Garcia said he kept hearing “drive, drive” and took off toward the river.
When asked by the prosecution if he ever asked Ornellas-Castro what had happened, Garcia said he asked him after he started driving, but doesn’t remember how long he had been driving when he decided to ask him.
Mr. Hutchinson began cross-examination by questioning the witness about his plea deal with the district attorney.
Mr. Hutchinson asked Mr. Garcia if he no longer wants the deal, and whether he is aware that he now faces trial and that his previous testimony would be used against him as evidence. Mr. Garcia responded saying he was aware.
Mr. Hutchinson asked Mr. Garcia if he lied to Ms. Aiello saying it was a robbery, or if he simply didn’t understand what a robbery was. Mr. Garcia admitted that he lied.
Mr. Hutchinson directed his questions to how the robbery was planned and Mr. Garcia agreed that he had been advised against messing with “the Asians.”
Mr. Garcia said, when asked by the defense, that he didn’t remember where he was when Ornellas-Castro suggested to rob Mr. Phaouthoum. However, when the prosecution asked, he said he believed it was when they arrived at the Bel Air parking lot – and he later said it was some time after they stopped in Isleton.
During re-cross, Mr. Hutchinson asked about statements Garcia gave to Detective Brian Young. “When you told Detective Young that Lance searched Andrew for his phone or wallet were you being honest?” Mr. Garcia agreed.
“Did you tell Detective Young that Lance divided the marijuana and gave you the bigger bag?” Garcia agreed.
Mr. Hutchinson reminded Mr. Garcia that in a previous testimony he said he had divided the marijuana. “It’s all getting confusing,” Mr. Garcia replied.
Mr. Hutchinson reminded Mr. Garcia that he originally said he threw Mr. Phaouthoum’s phone in the river, which means Mr. Ornellas-Castro couldn’t have been searching for the phone.
Mr. Hutchinson told Mr. Garcia that Mr. Phaouthoum was found with $59 in his pocket, meaning Mr. Ornellas-Castro didn’t take his money after he shot him. If Ornellas-Castro didn’t take the money and was aware that the phone had been thrown in the river, he didn’t have a purpose for searching Mr. Phaouthoum.
“You lied to Detective Young,” Mr. Hutchinson said, suggesting Mr. Garcia never saw Ornellas-Castro searching the pockets.
“There’s a lot you don’t know, right Mr. Garcia?” Mr. Hutchinson said as he finished cross-examination.
by Tiffany Yeh
Sergeant Charles Hoyt, a detective with the Yolo County Sheriff”s Office, testified about his involvement in the investigation of the death of Andrew Phaouthoum.
On December 12, 2015, Detective Brian Young notified Sergeant Hoyt that a body was found in a slough. Sgt. Hoyt responded to the scene and waited for CSI and the coroner to arrive. Later that evening, Sgt. Hoyt tried to find a lead as to the body’s ID.
Det. Young and Sgt. Hoyt reviewed phone records and used the Whooster app to try to find the person linked to a certain phone number. Jorge Garcia was the person they found the number to be linked to.
They reviewed text messages that Jorge Garcia sent to “Joker.” Data extraction of the phone that Mr. Garcia had on him was completed. They found the person that Joker’s phone number was linked to, after getting a search warrant and obtaining phone records. Texts between Mr. Garcia and Joker had information about the case and Andrew Phaouthoum that at the time had not yet been disclosed to the public.
Mr. Garcia had been driving a 2002 Toyota Sequoia; two worker IDs were found in the vehicle. Mr. Garcia’s parents had driven the vehicle to the Yolo County Jail to visit their son.
A consent search of the vehicle was done, finding two CRT Systems work IDs, and maroon lanyards with the words “Simonton Windows.” One belonged to Mr. Garcia and the other belonged to Mr. Ornellas-Castro.
When asked if clear glasses were found in the Sequoia, Sergeant Hoyt described not recalling seeing or hearing about them.
Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson asked Sgt. Hoyt if he had ever made a direct drive between the Florin Bel Air and the slough where Mr. Phaouthoum’s body was found – he answered no to the question. Mr. Hutchinson then asked Sgt. Hoyt if he spoke to “CT.”
On December 17 around 4pm, Sgt. Hoyt spoke to CT while Sergeant Mike Glaser spoke to “WB” at their apartment.
Sgt. Hoyt recalled seeing a female and another Asian male also in the apartment (both in their teens or early adulthood); he had not identified them for the case.
Sgt. Hoyt and Sgt. Glaser recorded the simultaneous conversations they had. Sgt. Hoyt spoke to CT while Sgt. Glaser spoke to WB at the same time in the same apartment, with one of the pairs standing in another area of the apartment.
Mr. Hutchinson questioned Sgt. Hoyt extensively on why he had not asked CT to speak outside of the apartment with him, somewhere away from WB. He raised the point that, with the two pairs of people talking relatively closely in the apartment, WB could influence or interrupt CT – they could coordinate and influence each other’s answers.
Sgt. Hoyt expressed that the subject of illegal drug sells was sensitive and he wanted the subjects to feel comfortable opening up to him in conversation at the apartment. He later mentioned that speaking outside to CT may invade his privacy and lead his neighbors to look at CT and ask questions.
CT talked about the amounts of marijuana that Andrew sold, which was in increments of dime bags (each could sell for approx. $10 each) and in up to a pound increments (with each pound selling for $1000, $4000, or $5000).
Mr. Hutchinson asked Sgt. Hoyt if he had asked CT if Andrew carried a gun. Sgt. Hoyt said that one of them asked about it. Mr. Hutchinson seemed to imply that Sgt. Hoyt misled or perhaps lied when he stated something about people selling marijuana in high amounts usually have a gun on them.
It was unclear during the trial if Sgt. Hoyt answered whether CT told him whether Andrew carried a gun.
The prosecution continued playing a video that they had started played on a prior trial date. The male in the video talked about working at Taco Bell previously, mentioned temp agencies, and said the last place he worked was a window company but his friend didn’t pick him up. He said he was let go from the window company job. He mentioned needing to catch up on bills.
The next witness for the prosecution was Detective Young.
Two photos from Mr. Ornellas-Castro’s phone were showed to Det. Young in court today. Det. Young stated, “I believe so” in response to being asked whether he had located those photos in the initial search warrant of Ornellas-Castro’s phone.
The search warrant download for the defendant’s phone sought the span from approximately October 2015 to January 2016.
On January 15, 2017, Detective Young interviewed Jorge Garcia. Mr. Garcia stated that they (he and Mr. Ornellas-Castro) went to set up Andrew. They ordered one ounce of marijuana from Mr. Phaouthoum initially, but then changed it into six ounces of marijuana and approximately 0.25 ounce of cocaine. The value of that combo was approximately $800.
Mr. Garcia stated that, on the day Andrew was killed, he had $200 and Ornellas-Castro had $300. Mr. Garcia stated that no money was handed over to Andrew that day and, when they arrived at the meeting, Ornellas-Castro got into the back seat of the car. Garcia did not say that he searched Andrew himself and did not mention finding a phone on Andrew that day.
Mr. Garcia stated that he had purchased marijuana a week prior from Andrew Phaouthoum and that he had met Mr. Phaouthoum approximately two weeks prior at WB’s apartment.
On February 1, Det. Young interviewed Mr. Garcia again.
Garcia said he and Ornellas-Castro were setting up Mr. Phaouthoum and that Ornellas-Castro was going to use his gun to scare Phaouthoum. They hatched the plan on the way from the window company, where they worked, to Ornellas-Castro’s apartment.
Mr. Garcia also stated in the February interview with the detective that Mr. Ornellas-Castro had $300 that day, and the intention was to buy marijuana with that. In Mr. Garcia’s original testimony, he stated that he did not recall whether Mr. Ornellas-Castro had money that day.
When Det.Young spoke to Mr. Ornellas-Castro on the night of his arrest, the defendant stated that he had $300 and that there was a larger bag and a smaller bag of marijuana.
Mr. Garcia said that Mr. Phaouthoum told them that he was unable to get the cocaine.
In the January 15 interview, Garcia stated that Ornellas-Castro gave him the larger bag of marijuana.
However, at least initially, Mr. Garcia’s testimony was that he was the one to give the smaller bag of marijuana to the defendant.
In the January 15 interview, Garcia also stated that the defendant searched Mr. Phaouthoum for a phone or wallet. Garcia, in this interview, had not mentioned throwing Andrew’s phone in the river earlier.
Fifty-seven dollars in one front pocket and $2 in another pocket were found on Mr. Phaouthoum.
When Det. Young asked Mr. Garcia why he agreed to go along with the robbery, he stated, “Peer pressure, I guess…” He also stated that WB had warned him, saying something to the effect that Asians will shoot up a neighborhood and, “you don’t mess with the Asians.”
Mr. Garcia stated that Mr. Ornellas-Castro was the one to suggest the robbery.
Det. Young did not ask Mr. Garcia whether he was afraid of retaliation.
Garcia stated that he had the weed and that he zoned out on the weed, for approximately two minutes, until he heard the gunshot.
When Mr. Ornellas-Castro was interviewed, he stated that there was a disagreement about the weed amounts that day – about whether it was half a pound or only six ounces of weed. The defendant said it was supposed to be a good deal.
Mr. Garcia stated that he did not tell “FC” anything about the day besides that something bad happened. Mr. Garcia had asked Mr. Phaouthoum around 3:30pm, when he got off work, if he could bump the order to cocaine – this was after the stop in Isleton for beer on the way. Initially, the order was for an ounce of marijuana.
Garcia stated that Ornellas-Castro said to “up the order, you can take it, I’ll take the money.”
The second time Garcia bought marijuana from Phaouthoum, he did not say that his friend “RB” was with him.
In a text on December 4, 2015, from Mr. Garcia to RB, he stated something along the lines of “not enough dough to get by next Friday” and wanting a “lick.” The next Friday was December 11.
Mr. Garcia, early on, had stated that he had called up RB to borrow money so he could sell cocaine. A lick seemed to mean selling the cocaine.
When Det. Young asked Mr. Garcia what a lick was, he stated that he could not remember what it was. Mr. Garcia, at some point during an interview, said something about selling cocaine and then needing to set someone up.
Sgt. Glaser went to Rio Vista to talk to RB and she gave her phone to the sergeant. Her phone was downloaded.
On December 17, 2015, Detectives Thomas Hayes and Reiko Matsumura, both from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, talked to FC and asked her what a lick was.