Police Officer, Detectives Testify in Trial of Three-Year-Old Modesto Murder

By Isabelle Brady

MODESTO, CA– Testimony here in Stanislaus County Superior Court continued Tuesday in the murder trial of Joseph Chapman for the murder of Christina Hill, a 47-year-old unhoused woman whose lifeless body was found in near a trash can in Modesto nearly three years ago on May 13, 2019.

Modesto Police Officer Matthew Hector, the first police officer to arrive on the scene to investigate a “suspicious death” as deemed by emergency medical services, said Hill’s body had been found in the 700 block of 18th Street, around its intersection with G Street.

Officer Hector reported that the paramedic on scene who reported the body described to him what he observed—“white female adult lying supine in front of a green vehicle…there was blood around her facial area.”

The paramedic told the officer they checked for a pulse in her neck and her chest, then “deemed her to be deceased due to obvious signs.”

Officer Hector reported that neither he nor anyone else had disturbed anything at the crime scene before detectives arrived and began investigating, noting, “Nobody touched anything.”

Chapman’s lawyer declined to cross-examine Officer Hector, saying, “I have nothing further.”

The next to take the stand was Detective Philip Weber of the Modesto Police Department’s high-tech division, who testified about his analysis of surveillance cameras in the area and cell phone records.

Detective Weber collected surveillance spanning several hours before and after he and his colleagues thought that the incident had taken place and compiled it into two video records of the night of May 12 and early morning of May 13.

The crime scene itself, however, was not covered by any cameras.

Detective Weber said that the first video record—what DDA Schwartz was calling a “spliced video”—was “of the defendant as he walked eastbound on G Street, into the liquor store, throughout the liquor store while he was in there, and then his exit from the liquor store in a westbound direction.”

That spliced video included Christina Hill “for portions.”

Some of the video records also showed Hill in a Quik Stop gas station, where she took two phone calls.

According to Detective Weber, analysis of her phone records show that she received calls from “Greg’s friend,” as the individual was listed in her contacts. The video placed her leaving the Quik Stop around 12:50 a.m.

According to phone records, the next call that Hill made was at 2:02 a.m. on May 13. Hill’s next call after that was made at 3:47 a.m.

The total video record of the night was incomplete. Because of the way that many of the surveillance cameras operated, video was erased as new video was taped over it, leaving some gaps spanning around 40 to 50 seconds.

Detective Weber also explained that the motion-activated cameras may have missed some things they should have filmed because they were processing what they had just filmed instead of picking up on a new motion that should have set them off.

Halfway through Detective Weber’s cross-examination, Judge Dawna Reeves asked Chapman’s lawyer if he could pause in order to allow another witness to testify before the court recessed for the day. She said this was done to prevent unnecessary delay later.

Detective Ra Pouv of the Modesto Police Department’s Homicide Unit then took the stand, where Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz briefly asked him about his participation in Chapman’s arrest and the following investigation.

After Chapman was apprehended, Detective Pouv spoke to a (family member) who “showed [him] a photo of an article of clothing that was relevant to the case.”

That photo was of “a gray sweater” with a word on the front.

Chapman’s lawyer declined to cross-examine Detective Pouv.

The trial is set to resume with Detective Weber’s testimony Wednesday.

About The Author

Isabelle is a first year undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara majoring in philosophy. Her passions include writing, criminal justice reform and reading Kurt Vonnegut. She may or may not eventually attend law school.

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