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The People v. David Harrison Buzzetta

September 30, 2011


(Super. Ct. No. 62089830)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie, J.

P. v. Buzzetta



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Convicted of murdering his stepfather, Paul Bonomo, with a baseball bat and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison, defendant David Harrison Buzzetta appeals, contending the trial court violated his federal constitutional rights by excluding evidence that his mother, Eileen Bonomo,*fn1 and the man with whom she was having an extramarital affair, Brian Stafford, might have been the real killers.

We find no error. While there was evidence Eileen and Stafford might have had a motive to kill the victim, our Supreme Court has made clear that "evidence of mere motive or opportunity to commit the crime in another person, without more, will not suffice to raise a reasonable doubt about a defendant's guilt: there must be direct or circumstantial evidence linking the third person to the actual perpetration of the crime" for evidence of third-party culpability to be admissible. (People v. Hall (1986) 41 Cal.3d 826, 833.) Here, defendant fails to point to any evidence linking Eileen or Stafford to the actual perpetration of the crime. Moreover, defendant has not shown that he had a federal constitutional right to present his third-party culpability theory in the absence of such evidence. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment.


Defendant was born in 1987 to Eileen and Mark Buzzetta. When defendant was three years old, Eileen married Paul Bonomo. When defendant was 16, the family (which included Eileen and Paul's two children together) moved from San Jose to Roseville.

After they moved to Roseville, defendant's performance in school deteriorated rapidly and he began dressing "very dark" and chose friends Eileen believed were "doing drugs." Eileen believed defendant was doing drugs as well, and she eventually told him he had to leave the house and could not come back until he got help.

In September 2006, after defendant had left the house and was living "around somewhere," Eileen discovered some of her jewelry was missing, as well as defendant's guitar, saxophone, and some electronics. There was no sign of a break-in. Eileen reported the theft to police.

When Eileen next spoke to defendant, he was in Colorado at his father's. She confronted him about the theft of her jewelry and told him he could either turn himself in to the police or "go into a lockdown, 90-day rehab facility." Defendant hung up.

Eventually, defendant "reached bottom" and told Eileen he wanted to come home. She told him he needed to go into "rehab" immediately, which he apparently did. He completed only 28 days of the program, however.

Meanwhile, in mid-January 2007, Eileen and Paul decided to live apart while they "work[ed] things out[]." Eileen moved about a mile away with their two children, while Paul remained in the family home. At the time, Eileen was having an extramarital relationship with Stafford, with whom she worked.

In March 2007, defendant called Eileen, and on the morning of March 16 they had breakfast at a restaurant in Roseville. They mainly discussed having defendant get help, because "[h]is brain seemed pretty . . . fried." When defendant asked if he could stay with Eileen, she said no. She did, however, invite him to his sister's birthday party on Sunday, two days later. He came to the party, where he lay on the floor and stared at the walls. When he asked Eileen if he could stay at her house that night, she again refused, and after he asked for the third time, Paul intervened and told defendant he could stay at the family home for that night only. Defendant "wasn't really happy," but he left with Paul around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m.

Some time between 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning, defendant showed up at the house of Darcy Wolfe, the mother of one of his friends, where he had been sleeping in her son's room or on the couch in the living room. Wolfe's house is approximately three miles from the family home where Paul was living, a distance a healthy person could walk in half an hour. Defendant spent the night on the couch, while Wolfe slept on another couch right next to him.

Around 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, defendant called Eileen and asked to meet her for breakfast. She could not meet him, but they made plans to meet for lunch. He told Eileen he was calling from a friend's house and that he had left Paul's 10 minutes after he got there.

When Eileen met defendant for lunch, his jeans had "dirt marks" all over them, he had an open wound on one of his knuckles, and he smelled like alcohol and cigarettes. Eileen took him to her house so he could shower.

Later that afternoon, defendant told Eileen he wanted a ride to the family home because he had left some items there. She told him that was impossible because he had nothing there. Defendant was "pretty upset" that Eileen would not take him to the house. At some point, defendant told her he was going to go back over to the house, and when she asked him how he intended to get in (because Paul should have been at work), he said the back door was unlocked. After getting more upset and cursing ...

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