Chauvin Conviction Underscores Parallels In Death Of Angel Hernandez
KPBS Midday Edition / April 26, 2021
CREDIT: SAN DIEGO METROPOLITAN TRANSIT SYSTEM
The conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd underscores similarities in the 2019 San Diego death of Angel Hernandez. Also, a new report shows an increase in people experiencing homelessness for the first time. Plus, plans are moving forward to connect San Diego's public transit with the airport. And a new book examines how the death of Rebecca Zahau continues to puzzle people. Lastly, the recently formed Turnkey Theatre released its first interactive audio production.
Speaker 1: 00:01 Why no charges were brought in the Hernandez case
Speaker 2: 00:04 Here in San Diego, essentially the public was kept in the dark about many of the details of the case.
Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Jade Heintzman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS
Speaker 3: 00:14 Day edition
Speaker 1: 00:25 In cases of homelessness across San Diego,
Speaker 3: 00:28 It was alarming. The number of people that were first time, almost
Speaker 1: 00:33 A local author, reexamined the death of Rebecca as a how and a theater releases its first interactive audio production that's ahead on midday
Speaker 3: 00:42 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 01:01 It happened months apart and hundreds of miles apart right here in San Diego, there was an in custody, death, tragically. Similar to that of George Floyd's on October 15th of 2000, 1924 year old angel Hernandez died while handcuffed and restrained by two MTS security workers. One of whom knelt on his neck for more than six minutes. Unlike in Floyd's case, there were no charges filed against the security officers involved here. David Hernandez, a crime reporter with the San Diego union Tribune has been covering this case and in his latest report takes a close look at why no charges were ever filed by district attorney summer. Stephan David, welcome. Thanks for having me. So there are a number of similarities between the deaths of angel Hernandez and George Floyd. Why were these cases handled so differently by prosecutors?
Speaker 2: 01:53 I mean, one of the very interesting things from the start is that prosecutors handled the local case without a lot of outside scrutiny, unlike the death of George Floyd, which because of many reasons was in the spotlight. And so here in San Diego, essentially the public was kept in the dark about many of the details of the case and prosecutors reviewed it for months and in the end decided not to file charges, but again, that all happened without the outside scrutiny.
Speaker 1: 02:21 So why did the DA's office decide not to file charges?
Speaker 2: 02:25 So it's really interesting cause they usually don't explain their reasoning behind the decision. But in this case, given the verdict of Derek Shawbin in Minneapolis and the revelation of many details in, in the local case, they did explain a bit and the district attorney's office essentially characterize the case as complex in that they pointed to several different aspects that complicate the case. For example, one issue they raised is that medical experts. They interviewed said that the knee to the neck of angel Sepata Hernandez, wasn't a main factor in his death that there were many factors that contributed to his death and not, not one single factor contributed to his death.
Speaker 1: 03:12 And that's right. The cause of death was similar in both Floyd's death and Hernandez, his death cardiopulmonary arrest. You have to put theologist who conducted Hernandez. His autopsy concluded. He died from a host of health factors. One of them went as far as to say, Hernandez would have died without a knee and his neck. That's something the forensic medicine expert who testified in Chauvin's trial, flatly disagreed with after assessing Hernandez, his death. And what can you tell me about that?
Speaker 2: 03:39 Yeah, so it was really interesting because the same expert testified in a, that the trial of Derek Shaaban and the same expert was hired by the family of angel it's about the Hernandez. And like you said, he essentially disagreed with the findings by the medical examiners office in San Diego saying that being restrained and having pressure on his neck and his back definitely contributed to Angel's about that Hernandez death.
Speaker 1: 04:06 So based on the pathologist, uh, examination, are we to understand that Hernandez would have died in that moment, whether there was a knee in his neck or not
Speaker 2: 04:17 That's right. Essentially prosecutors asked the pathologist pretty directly if, uh, angels about the Hernandez would have died regardless of the need that was pressed on his neck. And the pathologist said, yes,
Speaker 1: 04:30 Many people have attributed the successful conviction of Derek Shovan to the fact that video evidence of the incident was widely distributed. Shortly after it happened a security footage of angel Hernandez, his death was kept from the public for some time. Why was that
Speaker 2: 04:46 Several reasons to that? One of them being that MPS officers and their personnel aren't law enforcement officers. So they don't, they're not subjected to a state transparency laws like say police officers. So in this case, there was no law that mandated the release of this video. And another interesting point is that the family didn't want it to be widely distributed while they mediated and resolve the case. Essentially a claim that they had filed
Speaker 1: 05:17 T S initially kept silent about a settlement that was reached with the Hernandez family, but they recently released a statement following the conviction of Derek Shovan. Can you tell us about that?
Speaker 2: 05:27 So MTS essentially announced a settlement with the Hernandez of angels about the Hernandez, and also pointed to a host of, um, reforms that they had been developing for months after this death, in terms of changes to policies and training for their MTS officers.
Speaker 1: 05:48 You know, while there were no charges bought by the DA's office supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, as chair of the MTS board took action after viewing the footage of angel Hernandez, his death, the family's attorney was initially skeptical of the intent. Tell us about that.
Speaker 2: 06:04 Yeah. So the attorney said he had, this had never happened where he essentially is hired by a family who a seeking justice in this case, in the form of a claim. And he's never had someone contact him from the start and he was skeptical for, for that reason. But he said he quickly understood that a supervisor, Nathan Fletcher was interested in making meaningful reforms. And we got a sense of that a little bit during a news conference last week when he flat out said that this death shouldn't have happened, that this was a seminal moment for the agency and really forced them to look inward. So he's been pretty outspoken about that from at least the moment that the agency, the agency being MTS announced the settlement and the reforms they made.
Speaker 1: 06:51 Speaking of those reforms, that is one way that the death of, of angel Hernandez, uh, does seem to break from the murder of George Floyd and the tangible efforts toward reform that MTS has made following the incident. So what reforms have been made so far and what more is MTS promising?
Speaker 2: 07:09 So there's actually several changes. A good chunk of it focuses on the MTS is use of force policy. It's a lot more robust. Now it bands choke holds carotid restraints and knee pressure to a person's neck or head. And among other changes, they're promising to also ban MTS officers from putting people in PR in a prone position, um, which was the case again in the death of angels about the Hernandez. And, uh, the family was happy to see all of those changes made. And they essentially said that they really hope MTS sticks to their word and follows through with the changes that they're promising to still make.
Speaker 1: 07:53 I've been speaking with David Hernandez, crime reporter at the San Diego union Tribune. David, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks for having me.
Speaker 4: 08:06 No point in time, count of the homeless population in San Diego was done this year because of the pandemic, but based on the number of people who sought out homeless services last year, the increase in the first time homeless population Rose dramatically, the regional task force on the homeless estimates, the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time last year, nearly doubled from 2,320 19 to 4,100 in 2020 officials say, they're not entirely sure that the pandemic accounts for that increase, but COVID-19 related jobs and housing losses are likely causes. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter Gary Warthen Gary. Welcome. Thanks for sharing now because there was no point in time count what exactly are these numbers based on
Speaker 5: 08:58 They're based on a system that the regional task force on the homeless uses a network where they communicate with all the homeless service providers in the County, and they track unique visits to service providers for people seeking help. That could be a variety of things. Uh, people actually, uh, seeking help to stay out of homelessness, uh, some kind of rental assistance to people who go into shelters and people who do receive some kind of housing, uh, there's various types, uh, some are called rapid rehousing, and then there's permanent supportive housing. So rather than doing a single night point in time count, this actually is often considered a more accurate count about how many people are in need, because somebody may be homeless for like six months. A lot of people may be homeless for six months, but they won't be counted on the annual point in time count because they're not homeless that night. Uh, so this data came from interviewing people. Um, yeah, it was, it was alarming. The number of people that were, uh, first-time almost a 40, 4,100, and that was compared to, uh, 2300 last year and, uh, 2,400 the year before. So actually those numbers have been going down slightly and now it was up 79%
Speaker 4: 10:17 Pandemic would seem like the likely cause of this increase. Why is the regional task force on the homeless reluctant to say so in its report?
Speaker 5: 10:26 Well, they just don't want to say is absolutely certain, uh, that that's what caused it. Uh, they're saying actually it is likely a cause, but they always find tune methods that they have every year. So even during the point in time count, and I'd been doing that for more than 10 years, uh, I always hear that, uh, you know, we're doing it a little different later this year. We might have a different numbers this year. So they might've reached out to more people this year, but still a 79% jump. And it, coincidentally it happened to her in a year when there was a pandemic. A lot of people think that's not a coincidence that there, there is an association with the pandemic and with these numbers going up for first time, almost newness,
Speaker 4: 11:11 Do these numbers indicate that the rental assistance and the, the eviction moratoriums put in place during the pandemic, we're not entirely effective.
Speaker 5: 11:21 Well, not necessarily, uh, you know, this is just data. So it doesn't try to say, this is why this happened. Or, you know, this wasn't working. Uh, the next step is to really go into this data and try to maybe do followup interviews with people and then report back on, on why these numbers happened. And all I can say is it probably would have been worse if we didn't have a rent moratorium, but, or an eviction moratorium. Because even with that moratorium, I've talked to people who were affected. I talked to a lady who was in a shelter and she said that, you know, her a person who was renting a room from said, you've got to go. And she said, but there's a moratorium. And she said, but I don't care. You've got to go. And she realized that's not a good environment to stay in.
Speaker 4: 12:05 Can you tell us some of the demographic information on the homeless population that was included in this report?
Speaker 5: 12:11 Yeah. Uh, 2,530 were veterans. Um, 2200 were unaccompanied youth 882 were families. About 3000 of them were over 62, uh, who were in shelters or had been on the street and received help from, uh, from somebody about a twenty-five percent of the people in shelters. Now we're 55 years or older. So there's an older population. I don't know what the age was before, but they think maybe the people in shelters might've been higher this last year, because when they did do outreach, they did try to prioritize older people who are more vulnerable to COVID. That was what they were speculating. But I was out with some outreach teams and we were bringing people into the shelters from, you know, areas that not on the street, but in canyons and stuff. And, you know, they were just taking anyone that they would find that though. But, uh, it could be that maybe people were coming forward because people on the street had heard about the pandemic and older people were saying, I don't want to get it. I know I'm particularly vulnerable. I hear older people are dying. So more people were going into shelters. In fact, I talked to, uh, a service provider who said that they were seeing people that they had never seen before. And they knew that they were otherwise reluctant to go in a shelter, but, uh, but they were this past year and they were coming in
Speaker 4: 13:36 There's concern that there's an over-representation of the number of black people who are homeless in San Diego in context to the overall population.
Speaker 5: 13:46 Yes, there is a, they are overrepresented in shelters and people on the street, like people make up like 5.5% of San Diego county's population. But, uh, in, uh, when they did the point in time, count it, it was like 21% of, uh, people, um, uh, black people were, uh, living without shelter and 30% of people in shelters on the night of the count, uh, of, um, January 20, 20, uh, were black people hit. That's something that the task force is going to look into also. Uh, but it is something that we've known for a while. The black population is overrepresented in the homeless population though, when compared to their overall population in the County.
Speaker 4: 14:33 Now, many of the programs designed to help people with their rent or keep people in their homes during the pandemic. Many of those programs are about to expire is that causing concern.
Speaker 5: 14:45 I've heard people talk about it, fearing a tidal wave of new homeless people. People are concerned. Uh I've I was talking to some homeless service providers and they say, they know people who are months behind in their rent. And if they come due, they're not going to be able to pay it. Uh, once a moratorium is lifted. Uh, so they're hoping that local and other government programs can help these people to stop the evictions. But gosh, it, it really is, is a concern that there's going to be that much more people that may become homeless, just because of evictions. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune reporter Gary Warthen Gary. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 15:41 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh with the deadline for validating signatures, fast approaching governor Gavin Newsome will almost surely face a recall election. This year. There are several Republican candidates lined up to replace him the latest being reality star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, former San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulkner and businessmen. John Cox are also candidates K Q E D. Politics editor, Scott Shaffer reports on some hard lessons. Democrats learned when governor gray Davis faced a recall 18 years ago
Speaker 6: 16:18 In July of 2003 California's top election official. Kevin Shelley made a somber announcement.
Speaker 5: 16:25 It's California's secretary of state. It is my duty today to certify the first week all the election of a governor in California
Speaker 6: 16:33 In California. There are two questions on a recall ballot. The first should the governor be recalled? Yes or no. And second, if the governor is recalled, who should the new governor be waiting in the wings that year one candidate towered over the rest. I'm going to run for governor on the tonight show with Jay Leno action, movie star Arnold Schwartzenegger announced he was in Republican operative. Sean Walsh was there
Speaker 5: 17:00 And was it just a perfect Hollywood type of campaign
Speaker 6: 17:04 That happens once in a generation? And he was the right person at the right time to capitalize on it. Then like now, one question loomed large for Democrats who opposed the recall should a prominent Democrat get into the race as a backup in case Davis has recalled, you know, just to make sure a Democrat wasn't replaced with a Republican Cruz Bustamante was the democratic Lieutenant governor at the time at first Bustamante said he would not run in the recall. How sure was he? Absolutely, absolutely 100%, but Bustamante soon changed his mind. I'm here to tell everyone to vote. No, on the recall. And yes, on Bustamante, Gary South was great Davis's campaign consultant. And so to say no on recall, yes. On was oxymoronic to the average voter and people didn't get what it meant as Bustamante saw it. He was trying to be a kind of insurance policy for Democrats. I decided to run in this race in order to protect the state against the kind of politics that I believe our little would bring to the state or some Democrat that's fumed. When Bustamante got in GOP consultant, Sean Walsh says team Schwartzenegger had a very different reaction. [inaudible]
Speaker 6: 18:20 coasts, tequila shots, rum, raisin, ice cream. It was a party all the way around. If you were a Republican, the time gray Davis was enormously unpopular with approval ratings in the twenties. So beating the recall was always going to be a tough climb. But South says, by jumping in Bustamonte caused even more problems for Davis. For one, it appended the message that the recall was a Republican plot. And some voters saw it as a way to replace the disliked Davis with the first Latino governor. So Arnold was clearly our biggest problem, but Bustamonte was a close second Bustamante. A central Valley Democrat had a hard time raising money and was no match for the star power of Schwartz. I knew what the consequences would be. If I lost it may shorten my career and I made the decision to run. Despite that looking back, Bustamante says his decision to run was selfless. I was taking one for the team, but the team sure. Didn't appreciate it. Not only was Davis recalled, but Bustamante finished with 31% of the vote far behind the winner. Thank you very much.
Speaker 4: 19:31 [inaudible]
Speaker 6: 19:32 Three years after that Bustamante, who was still Lieutenant governor ran for state insurance commissioner losing to a novice Republican, making him the last incumbent Democrat to lose a statewide election. I have no regrets. So whatever came after that, is it good or bad? It just is. I'm very at peace with all of that. Another recall heading for the ballot. Newsome's advisers are circling the wagons to make sure no other Democrat jumps in, but at least one is rumored to be thinking about it. Former Los Angeles, mayor Antonino, Vieira GOSA,
Speaker 4: 20:08 And that was K Q E D politics editor, Scott Schafer reporting
Speaker 4: 20:19 SANDAG says it's the beginning of the point of no return. Last week, the San Diego association of governments published a notice of preparation or N O P for a project that's been dubbed San Diego's grand central station. That notice is the first step in an environmental review for a transit hub, linking the regions rail and bus lines with a people mover to the San Diego international airport. Although the concept is still at its very early stages with many questions about location and access still on answered. The NLP puts the public and state agencies on notice that San Diego officials are serious about moving forward with this project. Joining me is Jennifer van Grove, who covers growth and development for the San Diego union Tribune. And Jennifer,
Speaker 7: 21:09 Welcome. Thanks for having me, what
Speaker 4: 21:12 Locations are being considered for this hub?
Speaker 7: 21:15 So right now the primary location is the Navy's old town campus or the NAB war site. It's the site, you know, when you're driving down interstate five, it's a bunch of old airport hangers. It's 70 acres. And right now the Navy is using that for cybersecurity. They have five, 6,000 workers onsite there, but those, those hangers weren't designed for the type of work that's being done. Um, and so SANDAG would like to repurpose that site that's site. Number one, um, the backup site is what's being called the intermodal transit center and it is a little bit closer to the airport. It's opposite the current, uh, rental car center. So kind of in, in that area along Pacific highway, those are the two primary locations. A third alternative will, um, study the possibility of extending the trolley to the airport. So less of a transit hub and more of just a trolley extension, but SANDAG preference is for this all encompassing regional transportation center that brings together all modes of transit as the connection to the airport. And it does so from the Navy's old town campus.
Speaker 4: 22:30 Okay. So besides the location of the hub, what other questions about the logistics of a transit hub? Like this are still unanswered.
Speaker 7: 22:37 Oh my goodness. There's so many questions left on answered, you know, the, the, the agency still hasn't determined how the connection to the airport is going to happen. You know, their preference seems to be a people mover. Is it going to be, you know, people mover that's underground? Is it going to be a people mover that's above ground that needs to be determined. Then there's a notion of, you know, what the transit hub looks like, how it's going to function in the case of the Navarre site, SANDAG is also proposing, you know, a fairly large development of mixed uses, including residential and office and retail. So there's a lot that needs to be determined. And that's kind of where the environmental review process kicks in because SANDAG expects to study pretty much all of those options as it decides, which is the best one moving forward. Well, no matter what,
Speaker 4: 23:38 Which location is eventually chosen, just step back. And what is the overall goal are supporters hoping a transit hub will change the way we get to and from San Diego international,
Speaker 7: 23:52 If you look at the data or sandbags data, I guess they, you know, something to the effect of, you know, 99% of people take personal transportation to the airport. Um, and so the, you know, big picture idea, at least with the direct connection is to, you know, change how people move about the city. And it's particularly in that last sort of mile or two connection from the intermodal transit center or the grand central to the airport, but big picture, you know, his son Xstrata who runs SANDAG. He wants people taking public transit throughout the city and the County. And so in creating the hub, the idea would be to get everything moving in the same direction and make it possible for people in North County, South County to, you know, efficiently get to this transit hub so that they can go to their next destination, whether that's the airport or downtown or somewhere else. But right now, you know, if you've listened to him talk or have listened to him talk, he talks about inefficiencies and how people move about San Diego. So the big picture is, you know, get people from North County, you know, down to the region, South County, all in this one hub where they can then, you know, disperse from there and really make public transit function in a way that I don't think, you know, it has yet to date and San Diego.
Speaker 4: 25:17 Okay. So this would be a huge project. Wouldn't there be trolley lines, rail lines, all sorts of, uh, roadways that would have to be linked in some way to a new hub site.
Speaker 7: 25:29 Yeah. That's the thinking. And so, you know, right now there's the old town transit center. If the, if SANDAG and the Navy pursue the old, uh, the Navy old town campus, they would have to shift all that infrastructure over, which is very expensive and very complicated. But yes, the idea is to combine all rail bus, everything in one place to make it very simple for San Diego
Speaker 4: 25:55 Say it would be very expensive. How expensive are we talking?
Speaker 7: 25:59 So they've done studies and depending on the options that they choose, it's 4 billion, 4.6, 4.7 billion. And that's just the tramp transportation. So, you know, any sort of, um, mixed use development on top of that, those costs aren't included. So
Speaker 4: 26:16 Does publishing a notice of preparation on this project? What does that put into motion?
Speaker 7: 26:21 It puts the whole project into motion. So one could make the argument that before last week, SANDAG was merely talking about this. You know, there's been a lot of talk about a transit are a direct connection to the airport for years. So this formalizes their intent to make good on the talk because now they have to actually pony up a lot more money to do the analysis and the study. So Hassan had said, um, that SANDAG has spent $10 million to date on studies and reviews of the options and, you know, committee work, et cetera. Well, there's another $60 million that needs to be spent before they even get to a final environmental impact report. So, you know, that's a big leap and they have of that 70 million total that they need to get to that point. They have 50 already approved by the board, but there's still another 20 million outstanding. So by filing the Noop, they're saying, you know, we are going to spend this money to make sure that we can study all of our options, get this environmental impact report released and move forward.
Speaker 4: 27:32 Can the public have any kind of input on, in this notice of preparation?
Speaker 7: 27:37 Yes. And so, you know, SANDAG is certainly very interested in public opinion. There's, um, what's called a public scoping meeting and it's just, you know, formal sort of term for this process under the California environmental quality act. And so anyone can attend this meeting there's information about it on non SANDAG websites and provide input on what they think sandbags should study in the environmental impact report. Um, so that's kind of the first step where the public can weigh in. I think there's, there's an opportunity for people to submit a form online if they'd prefer to do so instead. And then as the process moves forward, there's always going to be opportunity for public comment. Um, my personal opinion though, is, you know, getting feedback in early right now is, is probably weightier than responding to a draft of a document that's already been published. So these are, you know, these are kind of important days for people who want to have a voice in the matter
Speaker 4: 28:34 Speaking with Jennifer van Grove, who covers growth and development for the San Diego union Tribune. Jennifer, thank you.
Speaker 7: 28:41 Thank you. Marine SANDAG
Speaker 4: 28:43 Is seeking public input for the central mobility hub at a public meeting that will be held on Tuesday, May 11th from six to 7:30 PM. More information. And a link is on our website.
Speaker 4: 29:04 The public might've thought that the wrongful death conviction of Adam Shaq nigh three years ago would put an end to the mystery of what happened at the Spreckels mansion in 2011. But questions are still raging. As recently as last month, a family of Rebecca's a how one, the right to Sue the San Diego Sheriff's department for unreleased documents. In the case, the strange deaths of Zoho found hanging nude from a balcony at the mansion and max Shaq NEI her boyfriend's six year old son found fatally injured at the house just two days before shocked and puzzled San Diego, and eventually the nation, a new book, meticulously documents, the investigation background and theories surrounding the deaths, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions. Joining me a San Diego, true crime writer, Caitlin Rother. Her new book is called death on ocean Boulevard, inside the car natto mansion case. And Caitlin, welcome to the
Speaker 8: 30:04 Thanks for having me back
Speaker 4: 30:07 Now. The San Diego County Sheriff's department says it was a suicide. Rebecca Howe killed herself out of despair and guilt over the tragic accident that left six year old max brain dead. Can you remind us about some of the facts surrounding those two tragic events?
Speaker 8: 30:25 Sure. Rebecca claims that she was in the bathroom downstairs when she heard a crash and the dog barking, she came out and she found max lying on the floor in the foyer, right near the front door, the bottom of the stairs, surrounded by broken glass of a chandelier that fell from the ceiling, a scooter, a soccer ball, and a barking dog. So two days later, um, he's in the ICU, his dad, Jonah Shaq, NAI, Rebecca's boyfriend, and Max's mother being a Shaq nigh or at the hospital. Jonah's brother Adam, check my flies in from Memphis to try to be supportive. Adam and Rebecca go back to the Spreckels mansion. And the next morning Adam calls nine one one said he found Rebecca hanging naked bound, gagged her ankles, tied together. Her hands bound behind her back, uh, hanging from an exterior balcony in the rear courtyard of the mansion.
Speaker 4: 31:28 And is the facts surrounding Rebecca's hanging. That still seem incredible to many people. She was of course naked, which itself is puzzling. What else was out about this?
Speaker 8: 31:40 Well, women generally do not hang themselves publicly naked. In fact, when I did a Google search for naked suicides, I found one article called naked suicides. That basically said very little, almost nothing has been published or is known about naked suicides because I basically just don't happen. That is basically what got everybody going. And this is what made it so sensational, but more so she had this t-shirt in her mouth. Her hands were behind her back and just people just cannot visualize physically, logistically. How could she have done this to herself?
Speaker 4: 32:17 Tell us about the writing on the door because that's mysterious too.
Speaker 8: 32:21 Yes. There was a message written in black paint in block letters that said she saved him. Can you save her? Now? What I found curious about that is there's no punctuation. There's no question Mark. There's no comma. And it's written in what some have described as kind of an angry manner. I mean, and it's a kind of a taunting tone and it's written in the third person at the civil trial, the expert for the Zoho family said that it looked more like Adam Shaq, nice handwriting. Then it did look like Rebecca's the Sheriff's department's expert said, well, we can't examine our compare because we don't have a comparable sample. It was done with a paintbrush and not with a pen and paper.
Speaker 4: 33:06 You brought us several years forward in time because Adam Shaq Nye was, was sued by the [inaudible] family for wrongful death. After the Sheriff's investigation ruled Rebecca's death, a suicide, the jury heard the case. The jury agreed that Adam was responsible for this wrongful death. We're so used to forensic evidence, the CSI effect, being able to solve murder mysteries these days, but it really didn't help much in this case. Did it?
Speaker 8: 33:36 That's one of the interesting things about this case. Um, you know, I've sat through a lot of trials and I've learned a lot about DNA and fingerprinting, but this was an interesting case because Adam's DNA was not found anywhere in the bedroom where the hanging rope was anchored to the leg of a bed, nor was it found on the knife that he said he used to cut her down. So, you know, you would think that if he touched these items, there would be some sort of DNA left, but there wasn't any trace of his DNA only Rebecca's DNA. So that's why the Sheriff's department says this was a suicide that they only found Rebecca's fingerprints and DNA on all of these different items, including the ones that we know Adam touched.
Speaker 4: 34:22 Yeah. There's quite a bit of insight information included in death on ocean Boulevard, your new book, you got hold of detectives interviewed transcripts, didn't you? Yes, I did. And how did you do that?
Speaker 8: 34:37 I have my sources. I have multiple sources. And thank, you know, I've been in this town doing this job for a long time, both at the union Tribune. And then this is my 14th book. So I actually had people who brought me things called me and handed me things. And I was scared to tell you the truth. Initially, this case had, had not gone to court yet. The lawsuit at initially had not even been filed. There were all these theories about Rebecca being murdered. And so I thought, well, if I don't get sued, I could get killed right. Doing this book. So I actually kind of fought it at first. I kind of tried not to do the book, but then I couldn't help myself. And I became obsessed with it. Honestly, this mystery is one of the most intriguing that I've ever written about
Speaker 4: 35:23 After such a deep dive into this mystery, what are the top unanswered questions you're left with?
Speaker 8: 35:31 Well, I have a number of questions, um, probably too many to list, and I'm not sure that some of these will ever be answered, but number one, you know, we don't know for sure how max fell from that second story balcony because nobody saw it. The, the next question is Jonah's voicemail, which he claims he called Rebecca. He was crying and he basically says that he just told her what the doctor had told him and Dina, which was that the best case scenario was that max would never walk or talk again. And he claims he wasn't angry. He wasn't blaming anyone. He was just truly upset the house say, well, we can't prove that we don't know. We there's no evidence other than a phone record there's we haven't ever heard that message. The next thing is, if Rebecca did commit suicide, why did she do it that way?
Speaker 8: 36:25 And there's one theory that she may have been angry at Jonah. And why would she do it that way? Was there something about something that happened in their private lives that they haven't talked about? I did ask Jonah about that. He said, no, we didn't do anything like or anything like that. But Adam is convinced that it was Shibari, which is a self tying mix of sexual and artistic. But then the last thing is, you know, I think there are everybody in this, in this case has an agenda and a narrative that they're trying to control and everybody is holding information back or spinning it in a certain way to further their own agenda and their own, their own narrative of what actually happened. So that was my goal really was I don't have an agenda. I just want to find the truth.
Speaker 4: 37:16 It is, as I say, a meticulously researched book. And I want to thank you, Katelyn. I've been speaking with Caitlin Rother. Her new book is called a death on ocean Boulevard inside the car natto mansion case.
Speaker 8: 37:29 Caitlin. Thanks. Thank you,
Speaker 4: 37:32 Author. Caitlin Rother will hold a virtual book launch for death on ocean Boulevard tomorrow night, starting at seven. It's a zoom event through the San Diego virtual branch library.
Speaker 1: 37:54 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh over the weekend. The recently formed turnkey theater released its first interactive audio production called homecoming a meditation on the natural world, KPBS arts reporter, Beth duck Amando speaks with SDSU theater alum, Andrew Gutierrez, who did the sound design for the audio play?
Speaker 8: 38:19 Andrew, you are the sound designer on this new project called homecoming. So give us a little background on what homecoming is. Sure. So homecoming is a meditation on the natural world and it is a interactive theater box set
Speaker 9: 38:36 That is sent to the viewer at home so that you can do interactive theater without leaving your own space, especially in a time where everyone has kind of adjusted to what theater means to you and to interaction as it speaks to interaction. And I think that turnkey and homecoming has kind of re-imagined what a theater piece can be. Now, this came about at San Diego state, you are a recent graduate and this was involving students and Katie Turner, who is your advisor for this project? So Jerry and Wade had come to Katie Turner with an idea for a summer research project that involved kind of metaphysical beings. And I wanted to have a real focus on what it means to be human and in our connection with the natural world. And so in, uh, last year around summer August, maybe we had put together the first draft of a piece called Reddit as Dom moon and which eventually became homecoming.
Speaker 9: 39:42 And it was very similar. We sent it out to people to try test, got feedback, and found that it was successful and decided to go forward with it as turnkey theater, you did the sound design and on a piece like this, the amount of work that goes into it can be a little deceptive to the listener because it's voices that are in the forefront and the sound design is there the entire time in the background, but talk about the amount of work that goes into it. And how many layers of sound you were putting into this project, right? So of course we have different characters and different people recording in various different spaces since this was all done virtually. So it can be very difficult to match the environment, to match the tones, to make sure that it feels like you're in one singular space. It's an interesting process because there's a lot of technical little things to make sure that you can't clock anything else that's going on. Um, and then of course you have to build the world around it and make it feel as authentic as you can while keeping it fresh and exciting over a long period of time. I think for this project, it took us quite some time to make sure that everything matched and felt as smooth as it could. So let's hear a little bit of homecoming and then let's talk about the sound design.
Speaker 3: 41:08 I have asked some of my most precious creatures to join us, to help me in my task. I summoned them now as roar spirit of air, I ask for your presence. I am here, Ignis spirit of fire. I ask for your presence as a mother, I am here, Oh, me, spirit of water. I ask for your presence, earth mother. I am here and Tara spirit of the earth. I ask for your presence, earth mother, I am here. All right,
Speaker 9: 42:12 This is where all the characters were introduced. And you had to find kind of audio qualities to define each of these characters. And what was that like? That was a very fun project. Um, there's one sound in particular for mother earth and I believe we also used it for the character Tara. Um, but it is a recording of what earth sounds like from space and it is a recording that NASA did. And I thought that it would speak to the very essence of what it means to be on this planet. It's a small rumbling sound. So if you listen for it, that was one of my little special little spices. I like to sprinkle in there to make sure that, um, we built this world that not only spoke to the creative element, but that also grounded us in the reality of, of our world that that's beyond us because we wanted to have this kind of, uh, other worldly, just out of earshot, feeling for these characters in these deities.
Speaker 9: 43:17 And I thought that having a sound from another world that was still our own would support that. And you mentioned how it's like the small sound in the background. So people should really be listening to this on headphones and kind of focused. Yes, because I wanted to build the environment. Having both ears definitely puts you into the middle of it. And the quality of this is very kind of meditative. So this isn't, if you're expecting something to be fast paced or rigorously engaging in the sense that we sometimes feel with all these elements coming at us at rapid fire pace, this is kind of a break from all that. Yes, we definitely want you to feel entertained, but also relaxed and connected to the source. And it's hard to distinguish. Is there actually music involved or is that all just kind of sounds that are woven together to have kind of musical quality?
Speaker 9: 44:13 There's a musical elements. There are pads that are playing in the background. We want it to have, um, if you go and you listen to meditations online or frequencies, that'll bring out certain qualities. Uh, we wanted to emulate that and kind of give the sense that you're listening to a meditation, what you are. Um, but you're also listening to a play and this is a production of turnkey theater. Are there other productions in the works or is this a one-off? No, there are more in the works. This is our flagship first production, but if you go to turnkey theater, our website, you will be able to keep up to date. All right. I want to thank you very much for talking about homecoming. Of course. Thank you so much.
Speaker 1: 45:02 That was Beth duck. Amando speaking with Andrew Gutierrez about homecoming, a meditation on the natural world. The audio play is available through turnkey theater.com.