June 7, 2018
Pinyon Pines Murder Investigation
It started with the court opening up to go “On Record” regarding the evidence that the jury was requesting to review. The jury consisted of ten men, and two women. They had been deliberating for more than nine days in the Pinyon Pines Triple Murder Trial of two men: Robert Lars Pape and Cristin Conrad Smith. Both men have been in custody since June of 2016.
Interestingly enough, this was the second time they had been arrested and charged in the gruesome murders that took place in 2006. The first time, they spent seven months behind bars and were released in October of 2014 with all charges dropped by the Riverside County District Attorney. This is largely because they did not have solid evidence to convict the two men, and they knew it. All of the evidence that they had was circumstantial and the DA’s office knew that the defense would make Swiss-cheese of the evidence to garner an acquittal.
Around 3 PM in the afternoon on June 7, 2018 – the word came in that a verdict had been reached. This was a tense moment for both the victims family and the two defendants. Tensions were high. Prayers were audible on both sides. One side was begging for closure and a conviction to finally put this twelve-year case behind them. The other, was begging for the two men to be acquitted and released. Even the District Attorney was pacing back and forth – as if they knew that this case could really go in either direction. Shooting for a conviction was going to be a Hail-Mary.
Anyone who took the time to read the Grand Jury Indictment from the first round of charges being filed would realize that this was a long-shot. Evidence pointed towards the two men, but left a significant amount of reasonable doubt – which is likely why the DA’s office dropped the original charges. More than eighteen months passed while the DA did their “due diligence” investigation before the two men were re-arrested on June 10, 2016. The DA’s office cited ‘new evidence’ as the cause for the new charges being filed. So, the long journey of court proceedings began.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the new evidence is Jeremy Witt: a scruffy, neurotic character that came forward saying that Cristin Conrad Smith had said something to him regarding the murders. Despite Jeremy Witt’s behavior and current active court cases – one of which for impersonating a peace officer, his testimony was read in court. Because Witt asserted his fifth amendment right (because of his own run-in with the law) – his testimony could be read in court but could not be rebutted by the defense. Certainly, this is somewhat of an unfair advantage to the prosecutors.
Finally, the other key piece of evidence is the cellular phone data. The evidence indicated that Pape and Smith both went up into the Pinyon Pines area – but the data was inconclusive and was more than likely not what caused the conviction. What caused the conviction? Emotion. Twelve people that had been in a deliberating room for ten days, requesting transcripts and data – attempting to draw a conclusion. It is always easy from the outside looking in to draw a conclusion. Judging by the extended deliberations, it leads me to believe that at least one, if not multiple people, believed in the innocence of these two men.
There was a common denominator, though. Javier Garcia. Javier was a key-witness in the murder trial, but was also the son of one of the District Attorney Investigators in 2006. When charges were filed the first time around, Garcia was given immunity from charges, despite the fact that he was the one that seemed to know everything about what happened on that mountain in September 2006. He was the one that called Pape and Smith – he was the one that alluded to their guilt – and yet, Javier was the one that was not ever looked at because of his relationship with investigators at the time.
I can almost guarantee that this is not over. While there may be a guilty verdict at this time, it seems reasonable to believe that the Court of Appeals will have the final say in this Conviction. Personally, having followed the entire case, it seems apparent that there is more to this story – and that the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office sought nothing more than to consider this “Case Closed.”
The only difference between the first round of charges and the last round was the “key witness” Jeremy Witt who asserted his Fifth-Amendment rights in court. This should have been a red-flag to jurors – and certainly should have brought Witt’s written-testimony into question. Only time will tell now.
#PinyonPines #TripleMurder #Conviction #Appeal #Politics #Immunity