Tuesday Mar 11 2008
Defense in Stevens trial opens case with Pina
By: Luke Gianni Woodland Daily Democrat
Attorneys claim DAâ€™s main witness is unreliable
WOODLAND “ After prosecutors spent nearly three weeks building their case in the Andy Stevens murder trial, defense attorneys began their quest last Wednesday to tear it down. The prosecution rested its case last week after having brought in more than 20 material and technical witnesses. However, the defense spent the better part of the day aimed solely at one of those witnesses, the now-imprisoned Rebecca Pina. Pina, 23, claimed she overheard a conversation between the two defendants as they conspired to kill a man named Doug Shamburger. The prosecution's theory is Brendt Anthony Volarvich, 22, of Roseville shot and killed CHP officer Andy Stevens outside of Woodland during a traffic stop on the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2005. Volarvich has confessed to the killing. Volarvich, prosecutors say, was on his way to kill Doug Shamburger as part of a contract to repay a bail debt to another Woodland man. Prosecutors say that man was Gregory Zielesch, 50, who was arrested by police the day after the shooting, for providing the gun to Volarvich. He has also been charged with conspiracy and murder. Pina said in earlier testimony she overheard Zielesch ask Volarvich to kill Shamburger during a car ride back from the Yolo County Jail on the morning of Nov. 16, 2005. Zielesch hated Shamburger, who was seeing Zielesch's ex-wife, because, Pina said, he had stolen property from his house and was constantly harassing him. Shamburger has said he will not testify in the case, exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Zielesch had bailed Volarvich out of jail after a drug-related arrest the day before at Pina's behest. Pina was Volarvich's girlfriend at the time. Pina had testified earlier that Zielesch gave Volarvich money to buy methamphetamines later that day. Volarvich left Pina behind at Zielesch's house to presumably carry out the order and never returned. Pina was asked if she knew anything about the shooting. I might, Pina responded. Defense attorneys have tried to portray Pina as a liar and drug addict who concocted the story for police to avoid prison. Zielesch's attorney, Stephen Naratil, brought to the stand a series of witnesses who said they heard Pina give wildly different accounts regarding the shooting. Theresa Williams, a Woodland resident and one-time friend of Pina's, came to the stand and said Pina's roommate showed up to her house months after the shooting, flashing a CHP ticket book. Witnesses testified earlier that they did not see a ticket book around Steven's body after the shooting. However, law enforcement officials did testify that a ticket book had been recovered inside Stevens' patrol vehicle. On cross-examination, Williams said she never heard Pina mention that Zielesch had given Volarvich the gun. She also recalled an earlier conversation between Pina, Shamburger and herself in a motel room before the shooting, where Shamburger was leaving to visit Zielesch for lunch. Becky got up and said ˜Whatever you get, I get half,' Williams said. Williams also said that Pina told her in yet another account of the shooting that Volarvich was actually on his way to kill Zielesch that day, because he had hit her. In this account, Shamburger was following behind in another car and was pulled over along with Volarvich but was waved off by Stevens. Daniel Coleman, a forensic toxicologist for the California Department of Justice, testified that Volarvich's blood test revealed a strong positive for the presence of methamphetamines. Someone up at that level is a heavier chronic user, Coleman said. The trial is set to resume this week.