Investigators Testify in Robbery Case

By Kelsey Landon

On Thursday morning the jury trial resumed for Ricky Gomez Hernandez and Joshua Armond Cadenaz-Lopez, two codefendants facing charges of 2nd degree robbery, enhancements for use of a firearm, attempted assault with a firearm, and involvement with criminal street gang activity.

Testimony continued from West Sacramento Police Officer Michelle Mizzi regarding two incidents that occurred October 20, 2016.

Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes continued questioning Officer Mizzi by asking if she could identify a piece of evidence she found at the scene of the hit-and-run.

Officer Mizzi identified the piece of evidence as the side-view mirror from the alleged victim’s vehicle, something she had picked up at the scene and brought back to the police department after the incident.

Mr. Hasapes queried Officer Mizzi about the items found in the Chevy Colorado from which the alleged suspects were apprehended.

Mr. Hasapes next asked Officer Mizzi to list the items that she found in the car upon investigation, which Officer Mizzi stated to be a Chicago Bulls cap, a silver iPhone, two firearms, a replica firearm, a black and red air freshener, a red polka-dot duffel bag, a black duffel bag, a California Republic hat, and a digital scale.

Mr. Hasapes continued to show photos taken of the interior of the Chevy Colorado, including photos taken underneath the driver’s and passenger’s seats, and Officer Mizzi identified firearms in both photos, as well as ammunition in one.

Upon being asked, Officer Mizzi confirmed that these firearms would be difficult to reach from the front area of the car.

Mr. Hasapes proceeded to show a photo taken of a black and red air freshener hanging behind the windshield of the car, asking Officer Mizzi of the importance of this photo.

Officer Mizzi replied that she took the photo and the air freshener as evidence because she believed it and other items of similar colors to be gang-related.

Mr. Hasapes continued to show photos of what Officer Mizzi identified as glass jars with a green leafy substance in them, which she suspected to be marijuana.

Officer Mizzi confirmed that the substance in these jars tested positive for marijuana when using a NIK field presumptive test kit.

Mr. Hasapes continued to display evidence from the incident to the jury as well as to Officer Mizzi, which included the driver’s license for Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez.

The black duffel bag found in the vehicle contained a replica firearm according to Officer Mizzi, who only discovered it was a replica upon closer investigation.

In his cross-examination of Officer Mizzi, the defense attorney for Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez, Jem Martin, confirmed with Officer Mizzi that she had not had any close interaction with Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez during the event that took place.

Officer Mizzi claimed to have called the suspects out of the vehicle, giving them instructions as they exited, during which Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez continued to talk. When later asked by the jury, Officer Mizzi could not recall what Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez was saying.

Mr. Martin continued his questioning of Officer Mizzi by confirming that Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez was removed in a secure patrol vehicle, along with the other passengers of the vehicle.

Mr. Martin confirmed with Officer Mizzi that the Chicago Bulls is a sports team with red and black as their colors, and that the red and white polka-dot bag found in the vehicle is not the kind of item that is usually associated with gang members.

Deputy Public Defender Lisa Lance, representing Mr. Hernandez, took to cross-examining Officer Mizzi first by confirming that there were no identifying marks on the Chicago Bulls cap found in the vehicle.

Ms. Lance continued with her questioning by confirming with Officer Mizzi that the firearms would have been very difficult for someone in the front of the vehicle to place under the seat where they were found.

Officer Mizzi then confirmed there was no way to positively match the 9mm firearm found in the vehicle with the exact piece of evidence she was presented. The serial number on the gun was removed and she would not be able to identify the magazine.

Ms. Lance asked Officer Mizzi if anything in the duffel bag indicated that it belonged to Ricky Hernandez, to which the officer replied in the negative. She claimed the black duffel bag had work clothes in it with no name she could recall.

Mr. Hasapes closed with the witness in asking her whether or not she was trained to deal with gang-related crimes, and she claimed she was not. Officer Mizzi stated that the role given to her was to search the interior of the vehicle.

After Mr. Hasapes confirmed with Officer Mizzi that the firearms presented as evidence looked the same as the ones in the photos taken at the scene, the officer was dismissed.

The next witness brought to the stand to testify was Forensic Investigator for the Sacramento Police Department, Stacey Rossi.

Investigator Rossi described that she was responsible for taking latent prints from the evidence, and she claimed she had over 200 hours of training in the forensic-based process necessary to obtain these prints.

Ms. Rossi went on to describe the procedures taken in obtaining latent prints, specifically for firearms, as well as the DNA swabbing procedure and how to uncover an obscured serial number.

Once Mr. Hasapes gave her one of the firearms taken as evidence, she recognized it from the case number and item number, after having performed the latent test on the firearm in November of 2016.

Ms. Rossi claimed she did not find any viable prints on the gun, and that the item was checked out of her facility after having conducted these processes. Mr. Hasapes later confirmed with her that is not indicative of anything other than that the test was inconclusive.

Despite this, Investigator Rossi was successful in uncovering the serial number.

After identifying a serial number, Ms. Rossi called the Property Section of the Sacramento Police Department to inform them of this information.

Upon cross-examination by Mr. Martin, Ms. Rossi confirmed that her unit swabbed for DNA from the firearm, but she does not know if they got anything significant.

Ms. Rossi was then dismissed.

The next witness was then called to the stand. Brian Long was employed as a community service officer computer analyst for the investigations department in the Sacramento Police Department at the time of the incident.

Mr. Long described how in the investigations unit he would use Cellebrite software as a method to extract data from devices. This data would be extracted in a file and then the software would read the data and transfer it to a file that would be uploaded to the department’s digital evidence file.

Mr. Long identified the make and model of each cellphone that Mr. Hasapes presented to him as evidence.

Mr. Long had been asked to extract data from the evidence presented, but Cellebrite could not effectively do so on several of the phones. He then took the phones to Yolo County’s High Tech Unit in the DA’s office to perform a “chip-off” process, an alternative method of data extraction.

After the data was extracted from these phones, it was converted to a PDF file that was taken back to the station to upload to the digital evidence file.

The witness then identified a data sheet as the one that matched the phone identified as evidence.

The cross-examination of Mr. Long began with Mr. Martin asking the witness how Cellebrite can read data, a question Mr. Long was unable to answer. The witness confirmed that there was no way to indicate how accurate the information being read in these extractions actually is.

Ms. Lance asked Mr. Long if cross-contamination between cellphones was possible, to which Mr. Long had no answer.

The next witness called to the stand was Investigator John Sadlowski, who works with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, assigned to the high tech unit.

Mr. Sadlowski described a “chip-off”: when a phone is disassembled and the data is read directly from the phone’s memory chip. Mr. Sadlowski claimed it requires special training but is not too difficult to perform.

The witness identified the evidence as the phones on which he was asked by Mr. Long to perform chip-offs.

Mr. Sadlowski affirmed that cross-contamination between phone data is impossible in the data extraction process, because it runs through a machine that he resets each time. This resetting, as well as the fact that the software generates a “hash value” to each phone that is unique to that phone, makes the data extracted specific to each phone. The Cellebrite process cannot cross-contaminate for the same reasons.

Ms. Lance asked Mr. Sadlowski to further describe what a “hash value” is, to which he replied that it is a mathematical algorithm that is essentially the digital DNA of the phone, but much more accurate. Mr. Sadlowski was then dismissed.

The final witness called to the stand Thursday afternoon was a forensic investigator for the Sacramento Police Department, Frank Woo.

Investigator Woo is trained in footprint analysis and the collection and documentation of footprint/ware impressions and tire mark impressions.

Mr. Woo explained the process through which his unit collects impressions of footprints or how they examine footprints.

Mr. Woo identified the photo of a footprint impression as a gel lift taken by him from the scene of the incident. Detective Kelly Elliot from the Sacramento Police Department had requested that Mr. Woo examine the footprints from the scene of the incident as well as the shoes taken as evidence from the suspects.

Mr. Woo positively identified the shoes presented to him on the stand as evidence, as the ones he examined.

Mr. Woo claimed that the first pair of shoes presented to him as evidence could be a possible match with the gel lift because the shoes are the approximate same size as the impression in the photo and have similar characteristics.

Upon cross-examination, Mr. Martin inquired of Mr. Woo as to why his analysis took place more than a year after the date of request, to which Mr. Woo responded it was not a top priority.

Mr. Woo confirmed, by looking at the date on the seal of the evidence, that the shoes have not been looked at since the date of his analysis.

The first pair of shoes presented to Investigator Woo required further examination in order to tell if they were the same shoes found in the impression taken from the scene. Mr. Woo explained that since shoe manufacturers made similar styles of shoes, it could be from a variety of manufacturers.

Ms. Lance confirmed with the investigator that he could not tell about what size the shoe is on the impression and that a video could not help him determine anything further.

After Ms. Lance’s final questions, Mr. Woo was dismissed and the court was adjourned for the day.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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