One of five suspects in a December 2016 murder and carjacking has agreed to testify for the prosecution.
Catherine Suzanne Lynn “Catie” Fode will be a witness against 24-year-old Cesar Octavio Valenzuela-Campos, his attorney said during a hearing this morning to discuss Valenzuela-Campos’ trial schedule.
Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo told Judge Christopher Wilson he had received a copy of a two-hour statement from Fode, “who is now a prosecution witness.”
“That changes things dramatically,” Russo said. Attorneys declined to comment further, so it’s not clear whether Fode, 19, will also testify against co-defendants Brandon James Mitchell, 23, and Tamara Nicole Thomson, 19. It’s also unknown what Fode will receive in exchange for her testimony.
This morning Wilson granted Russo’s motion for a continuance in Valenzuela-Campos’ trial, which had been set to start shortly.
“(Fode’s) statement obviously changes the complexion of the matter,” Wilson said. “I don’t know how much.”
Attorneys will be back in court Nov. 29 to discuss a new trial date.
A fifth defendant, Fode’s boyfriend Hector Godoy-Standley, 22, has been diagnosed as developmentally disabled and is expected to be sent to a state hospital next month. He remains in custody in the meantime.
All five are charged with the murder of 20-year-old Tyson Eduardo Claros, who was shot to death during a carjacking near Manila. Mitchell, the alleged shooter, reportedly believed Claros had molested he and Fode’s 3-year-old daughter. Claros was investigated but never charged.
Thomson, 19, was in the backseat of the car Claros was riding in when she allegedly pulled a gun and demanded that the driver pull over. Then Godoy-Standley, Valenzuela-Campos, Fode and Mitchell arrived in another vehicle and jumped out, all allegedly packing guns. After Claros was shot several times and left to die, Thomson and Valenzuela-Campos reportedly drove off in Claros’ friend’s car, leaving her behind as the sole eyewitness. The other three suspects left in Godoy-Standley’s vehicle.
Claros had introduced the eyewitness to Thomson, and she was able to identify her on Facebook. Thomson and Valenzuela were arrested quickly and made statements implicating themselves and the other three.
As of now Valenzuela-Campos is being tried alone, as is Thomson. Fode and Mitchell are scheduled for trial together. That will most likely change once Fode’s deal with the prosecution is finalized.
Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer declined to discuss the case outside court. Fode’s attorney Neal Sanders, reached by phone, also said he could not comment.
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PREVIOUS POSTS ON HECTOR GODOY-STANDLEY:
- One of ‘Manila Five’ Murder Plot Suspects Deemed Mentally Incompetent, Will Not Stand Trial
- Once Suspected in Manila Murder Plot, Hector Godoy-Standley Instead Referred to Facility Serving the Developmentally Disabled
- Alleged Murder Plot Participant Stuck in Legal Limbo, as Regional Center for Developmentally Disabled Adults Declines to Serve Him
- Defendant in Manila Murder Case Has Criminal Proceedings Against Him Suspended, Will Be Committed to a State Hospital