On the fourth day of the double-murder trial of Jason Anthony Warren, jurors watched security camera footage of victim Dorothy Ulrich outside the Hoopa Mini Mart the day before her death, and they saw Ulrich’s widowed husband, Tim Ulrich, Sr., testify about the samurai sword allegedly used in her murder. And later, a man who identified himself as Warren’s best friend failed to return to the stand after a break that came partway through his testimony.
Over the course of the day, various witnesses’ testimony tracked Warren during the 26th and 27th days of September 2012 as he allegedly moved from the Hoopa home of Dorothy Ulrich to Eureka, where he was arrested for her murder the following day.
Testimony began today with a friend of Ulrich, Deborah Norton, who said she had loaned Ulrich her 2005 Kia Spectra the day before her murder. Ulrich, she said, needed to get to the Ray’s Food Place in Hoopa to pick up some money that her husband, a long-haul trucker, had sent via Western Union.
Norton was shown pictures of her battered Kia, which Warren allegedly used to run down three women jogging along Myrtle Ave. on the same morning he allegedly killed Ulrich. Norton said that while the car had a dent or two before she lent it to Ulrich, the rest of the damage — including a shattered windshield, busted side-view mirror and dented hood — was new.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Glenn Brown, Norton said she’d seen a man named Mark Nelson on Ulrich’s property a couple weeks earlier, apparently looking for Ulrich’s son and holding what looked like a baseball bat or golf club behind his back.
It was not clear how or if the man fits into the chain of events that would follow.
Norton said she was awoken on the morning of Sept. 27 by an officer with the California Highway Patrol. Prosecutor Paul Sequeira showed Norton a photo of the floorboard of her car covered in debris, including shattered glass.
“Is any of that yours?” he asked.
“No,” Norton said.
The manager of the Hoopa Mini Mart, Mike Mularky, testified next, explaining footage that was captured on the business’s 16-camera Ocularis-brand security system the day before the murder. Sequeira played that footage in the courtroom. Ulrich could be seen walking in and out of the mini-mart, and she seemed to be accompanied by a man in baggy black-and-red gym shorts, a baseball cap and a white shirt.
Mularky testified that he later found out who that was: Warren. Brown moved to strike that answer from evidence on the grounds that it was hearsay, and Judge Timothy Cissna sustained the objection. Nonetheless, the jury heard Mularky say it was Warren.
The cameras caught Ulrich at the mini-mart in the morning and again after 10 p.m., Mularky said.
Next up was Ulrich’s husband, Timothy Ulrich, Sr., who said that, as a trucker, he was often gone for two to three months at a stretch, but shortly before his wife was killed they had agreed to put all their belongings in storage so she could come on the road with him full-time.
Sequeira asked Mr. Ulrich if he knew Jason Warren, and Ulrich said he did. But when asked to identify him in the courtroom, Ulrich looked around, his eyes passing over Warren more than once, before saying, “I’m really not sure.” Regardless, Ulrich said, Warren had never been a close friend of his wife’s.
Mr. Ulrich testified that he’d long been a collector of martial arts paraphernalia, since his days studying Aikido in the Navy. Sequeira pulled out a very long and skinny white box, which he identified as People’s exhibit #93. From the box he pulled out a bundle of butcher paper, which he unwrapped to reveal a small samurai-style sword in a scabbard.
Ulrich said he’d owned that sword, and its larger partner, for about 25 years. The shorter sword had a small blue tassel or lanyard attached to it, along with a decorative metal piece. A second lanyard and decorative piece was recovered at the Ulrich house, but the larger sword has been missing since Ulrich’s murder. Mr. Ulrich said the pair of weapons had been propped up just inside the front door to the right.
Next Mr. Ulrich was asked to identify a series of photographs that had been taken at his property. The images showed the Ulrich’s double-wide trailer and the surrounding grounds, and they showed a computer monitor inside the trailer that was hooked up to a four-camera security system mounted at various spots on the outside of the building.
In cross-examination, Brown asked Ulrich to identify even more photos, which had been arranged on a series of tri-fold poster boards, like backdrops to school science projects. Photo after photo, board after board, Brown asked Ulrich to describe countless details of his property and the layout of his double-wide trailer. At one point Brown had Ulrich sketch the floor plan of the trailer on a large easel with a red felt-tip pen.
Brown seemed to be laying the groundwork for something, though it wasn’t clear just what that might be.
Mr. Ulrich wrapped up his testimony by saying that, on the morning of his wife’s murder, while he was on the road in New Mexico, he’d directed his sister and a neighbor over the phone to break into the house to see why Dorothy wasn’t answering the phone.
Did law enforcement later show him any signs of forced entry? Sequeira asked.
No, Ulrich said.
A neighbor and close friend of Dorothy Ulrich’s named Tiffany Martin testified that she’d been over to the Ulrich property the day before the murder with her son, and she’d seen Warren there. Warren and her son tossed a ball around, and at one point in the day Warren said he thought he should get paid some money for helping Dorothy Ulrich pack up boxes, Martin said.
In the morning Martin called Ulrich as she usually did, but there was no answer, she said. After more calls went unanswered Martin became concerned, so she reached out to Tim Ulrich’s sister, Maria, and then later Tim Ulrich himself. With direction from Mr. Ulrich, Martin and Maria broke into the trailer.
Sequeira asked what they saw inside. Martin said Dorothy wasn’t moving. Sequeira inquired a bit further, and Martin said, “I don’t want to describe what I seen.”
Things got a little testy during cross-examination as Brown asked Martin some specifics about the day prior to Ulrich’s murder, and Martin responded — sometimes defensively — that she didn’t remember. For example, Brown asked Martin if she remembered laughing and passing around a joint with both Ulrich and Warren.
“Possibly,” Martin said.
What about talking with them about guns and your Second Amendment rights? Brown continued.
“I don’t remember none of that,” Martin replied, reminding Brown that these events happened three years ago.
Did she remember talking about someone stealing Dorothy’s gun?
“Not that day,” Martin said.
Did she remember Dorothy’s son Shane showing up late in the day?
“I don’t recall,” Martin said.
Did she remember seeing any signs of hostility or anger between Ulrich and Warren?
Martin said she didn’t, but she added that Warren was “having quite a bit of confrontation with people in Hoopa at that time.”
Next to take the witness stand was Eddie Koch, Jr., a dark-haired man of about 30 [Koch turns 25 on Nov. 14] who described himself on the stand as Jason Warren’s best friend. Koch testified that Warren had shown up at his grandparents’ house, where Koch often stays, early on the morning of Sept. 27, 2012. Koch spoke quietly into the microphone with a sort of slurred mumble. He said Warren tapped on his bedroom window before dawn and he let him in.
Shortly into Koch’s testimony, the courtroom took its scheduled mid-afternoon break, and when everyone reconvened about 20 minutes later, Koch was nowhere to be found. An investigator at Sequeira’s desk went into the hallway to look for him. The bailiffs radioed fellow officers to look for him downstairs. Eventually Judge Cissna called for another break, but Koch never turned up.
The remainder of the afternoon was taken up by law enforcement officials describing how they staked out Koch’s grandparents’ house and performed a traffic stop when Warren and some friends left the residence in a white pickup truck later that day. Warren was cuffed and taken to St. Joseph Hospital for a blood draw, and then booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.
From the stand, officers with the Eureka Police Department pulled items of clothing out of sealed evidence bags. The clothes, they testified, had been taken off of Warren the day of his arrest. These items included a pair of Adidas basketball sneakers, one of which appeared to have blood stains near the toe.
The jury was shown pictures of Warren taken from inside the jail that day, wearing a black tank top and what looked to be the same gym shorts seen in the mini-mart security camera footage from the day before.
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Wilcox, who was with the EPD at the time, said he processed Warren at the jail, taking those photos and collecting more evidence, including a cheek swab for DNA and fingernail clippings for biological evidence, and he even had Warren lean over a paper bag so he could comb his hair and collect what fell out.
The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m.
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