TURLOCK, Ca. — Call it junk, but investigators say a California lawyer treasured the scrap metal, defunct car and bric-a-brac in his back yard enough to kill a man he believed was trying to steal it.
And he had help, according to an affidavit in the case. The document alleges that Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson enlisted henchmen and brought his wife, daughter, shady associates and three current or former California Highway Patrol officers into the intrigue.
Multiple law enforcement agencies swooped in to arrest Carson on Friday.
He and eight others are accused of involvement in the killing of Korey Alan Kauffman, disposing of his body miles away in the wilderness and covering up the crime, police say.
Kauffman, who lived in the central California city of Turlock, allegedly supported his family by “scrapping” — street slang for stealing metal and hocking it.
He disappeared in March 2012. His body wasn’t found until more than a year later, when it was discovered in a remote part of the Stanislaus National Forest in Mariposa County.
Crime novel affidavit
The investigation produced an affidavit the size of a crime novel. The 325-page document contains interviews — some with people who have been in and out of jail — revealing lies blown open by wiretaps and the monitoring of cell phone data. There also admissions and accusations of guilt and boasts of planned crimes.
Carson, according to the affidavit, armed himself and made open threats about what he’d do if anyone ever touched his things.
“If I ever catch anyone in my backyard, I will kill them, and no one will ever find them,” he allegedly told a neighbor, according to another suspect police interviewed.
When Kauffman allegedly put his hands on Carson’s pile, police say, that sealed his fate.
Arrestees and accusations
Along with Carson, five other people are suspected of first-degree murder, lying in wait, firearm enhancement and false imprisonment:
— Georgia DeFilippo (Carson’s wife);
— Walter Westley Wells, a former CHP officer;
— Daljit and Baljit Atwal, brothers who own a liquor store; and
— Robert Lee Woody, a convicted felon.
Formal charges are expected to be brought early in the week.
Woody, whose street name is “Five-O,” is already in jail on charges related to Kauffman’s disappearance, the affidavit says. He has “admitted through various statements to law enforcement and third parties his participation in this brutal murder.”
Two current highway patrol officers, Eduardo Quintanar Jr. and Scott J. McFarlane — allegedly friends of the Atwal brothers — are suspected of conspiracy to commit a crime for allegedly covering for them, as is Carson’s daughter, Christina DeFilippo.
The CHP expressed heartbreak over the alleged involvement of its current and former officers.
“This rips at the soul of our organization,” Commissioner Joseph Farrow said. “It’s not what we stand for. It’s so far beyond what any organization stands for.”
CNN is seeking comment from lawyers for the accused but has not heard back.
Carson’s attorney Percy Martinez told The Modesto Bee that he and his client look forward to fighting the allegations in court and clearing Carson’s name.
According to the newspaper, Martinez said he and his client have been waiting more than a year for authorities to make their allegations public, instead of investigators frequently bringing up Carson’s name while questioning witnesses and suspects in the Kauffman case.
Carson has said that any suggestion he’s involved in Kauffman’s death is absurd, according to the Bee.
Carson was sick of being repeatedly robbed and eventually took matters into his own hands, according to the affidavit.
His things were reasonably accessible in his yard, stored in containers or in a shed he called a chicken coop.
Again and again, he called the police when things went missing — car parts, metal, an antique. Officers confirmed a few of the thefts, made arrests that led to sentences of a few weeks and a few years of probation. Other times, police came up empty.
“Carson was frustrated with law enforcement’s response to the thefts,” the affidavit read.
Police called on Carson
Police had a lot of contact with the defense attorney as he grew more irate. At times other people called police about Carson, after he allegedly argued heatedly with neighbors.
Once, when Carson called the police about an alleged theft, someone else, in turn, called the police to say the lawyer appeared to be assaulting his own daughter.
Carson enlisted her at some point to keep an eagle’s eye on the back yard, the affidavit said.
Carson was also seen snooping in cars parked in the neighborhood to look for his things, and staked out the house of a neighbor, Mike Cooley, who had spent time in jail, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit goes on to allege that Cooley was Carson’s prime suspect, for whom he originally lay in wait. By the time Kauffman, Cooley’s close friend, apparently happened by, Carson allegedly had enlisted some muscle to help him.
As a defense attorney, Carson represented convicts, ex-cons and others in trouble with the law. He wasn’t averse to asking for favors in return, the affidavit said.
“Frank Carson has multiple ties to the criminal element in the community and has solicited them on several occasions to commit acts of violence,” the affidavit said in its recommendation not to grant Carson bail.
As his suspicions about Cooley boiled, Carson allegedly arranged low bail for a man behind bars on the condition that, when he was out, he would “f— up” Cooley to teach him a lesson.
The man agreed to the deal, but he duped Carson. Instead of going after Cooley, he simply skipped bail, the affidavit said.
In the end, Carson allegedly was able to involve others in ensnaring thieves in his yard.
Before Kauffman, another man made the mistake of breaking into the “chicken coop.” The door slammed shut on him, and a man allegedly confronted him with what appeared to be a gun. The man had others helping him. But the would-be thief was able to break free and run, according to the document.
According to the affidavit, some of the suspects Carson enlisted already had a grudge against Kauffman, who had roughed one of them up.
Along came Kauffman
Kauffman had his eye on some metal irrigation pipes lying in Carson’s yard, and he told Cooley he was going to grab them late on March 30, 2012, the affidavit said.
He left his bike, his only mode of transportation, at Cooley’s house. It was still there the next morning, and Kauffman was gone.
Kauffman’s stepfather, Kevin Lee Pickett, who lived with him, reported Kauffman missing April 2.
An anonymous letter turned up in Pickett’s mailbox. “The letter said the writer ‘heard your son was beaten, I hope he’s not dead, I heard he was dumped in a dumpster in Modesto,'” the affidavit read.
Hunters in the Stanislaus National Forest found Kauffman’s body August 19, 2013.
The next year, in 2014, Carson unsuccessfully ran for the office of District Attorney of Stanislaus County. That’s when rumors spread he may have had something to do with Kauffman’s death, according to CNN affiliate KOVR. Some believed it was a smear to hurt his campaign.