from a judgment of the Superior Court of Colusa County, No.
CR53504, Jeffrey A. Thompson, Judge.
Nichols, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief
Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant
Attorney General, Julie A. Hokans and John W. Powell, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Cal.Rptr.3d 772] RAYE, P. J.
convicted defendant Paul Roger Moore of first degree murder
based exclusively on circumstantial evidence that he built
and planted a victim-activated bomb in an irrigation pump he
knew the farm foreman and eventual victim, Roberto Ayala,
would activate. Paul insists it was his first cousin Peter
who had the motive and violent disposition to murder Roberto,
a man who had claimed his father's and uncle's
affection and devotion. Paul's narrative of family
intrigue has all the earmarks of a Shakespearean tragedy and
makes for compelling drama. Nevertheless, on the narrow legal
questions presented, we find substantial evidence to support
the verdict and no abuse of discretion in admitting evidence
or denying the defense request for surrebuttal closing
argument, and therefore affirm the judgment.
DEATH AND THE MOORE FAMILY TRAGEDY
16, 2011, Roberto picked up his seven-year-old son, bought
him lunch, and drove to one of the Moore brothers' rice
fields to adjust the irrigation pump. His son heard a loud
explosion and saw his father on fire. He ran to help him, but
his father was unresponsive. He could not retrieve his
father's cell phone because his father was on fire. He
ran for about two miles to get help.
Ayala died instantly from an explosive device that he
unknowingly detonated at chest level. His body was still
burning when the firefighters arrived. There were pieces of
metal shrapnel in his chest, neck, and brain. The perforating
shrapnel- or fragment-related injuries occurred immediately
before the fire-related injuries. The forensic pathologist
who performed the autopsy opined that the cause of death was
explosive shrapnel injuries and high-voltage electrocution.
fire and law enforcement officials who performed the initial
investigation did not know a bomb had been planted in the
irrigation pump. Their investigation focused on whether the
explosion was an accident. The first responders believed
Roberto's truck had been moved because the broken glass
was located about 11 feet away and a piece of glass was in
the rear tire tread.
death occurred against the backdrop of great family
disharmony and dissension between the two principals in this
deadly drama, Peter and Paul, cousins whose fathers were the
sons of Richard and " Mimi" Moore, owners of an
1,800-acre farm near Colusa.
cousin was happy with his place within the family hierarchy.
Peter insists that on his deathbed his grandfather expressed
his desire for Peter to farm the walnut orchards. But abused
and ostracized by his father Gus, whom family members called
" Grumpy," Peter was not allowed to farm and
instead spent 21 years earning a living in a landscape
business he apparently loathed at times. He had been angry
and upset with the Moore family since he was 12 years old.
Peter tried to convince his grandmother Mimi to disinherit
his father, confident that his Uncle Roger would be more
fair. On several occasions, he physically threatened to harm,
among others, his father, his uncle, and Roberto Ayala.
Indeed, shortly before the explosion, Roberto had injured his
shoulder and Peter declared that " [w]hen his wing is
better, he's all mine." He was upset that Roberto
spent Father's Day with Gus and that they were together
all the time.
Cal.Rptr.3d 773] Paul is Roger's son. Paul appears to
have suffered more quietly than his cousin. But in a document
entitled " My Life" that he stored on his computer,
Paul complained bitterly about his life growing up on the
farm. He felt mistreated by everyone, including Peter. During
tomato harvest, he wrote, he drove the " shitty"
tractor, but " pussy" Peter was allowed to drive
the tractor with an air-conditioned cab because otherwise
Peter was a " prick to work with." Employees,
including Roberto Ayala and Roberto's brother Eduardo,
were given liberties he was not, such as drinking on the job,
taking farm vehicles and equipment for personal use, and
getting paid during the winter. Meanwhile, he was treated
worse than any employee, worked harder, but was never given a
raise. He wrote that his father thought he was stupid, but
continually raved about Roberto's intelligence. In
describing his life, he pondered what he had done to be
treated so poorly by his own family.
Peter and Paul have very different dispositions, they share
similar grievances and similar life trajectories. Clearly,
they both had hoped to assume managerial positions on the
farm. Their hopes had not materialized. They attempted other
ventures that failed--Paul in construction, Peter in starting
a sod business. Both suffered physically. Paul injured his
back and had to give up construction. Peter had his stomach
removed and lost almost 50 pounds.
significantly, they shared their animosity toward Roberto
Ayala. Roberto had worked for the Moore brothers for 19
years. He was the farm foreman. He was responsible for
regulating the water levels on the rice fields. Clearly, over
the years he earned the trust and respect of Roger and Gus.
There were disagreements where Roger took Roberto's
advice over that of his son or nephew. For example, Roberto
traveled with Peter to a seminar about operating a sod
business, but when Peter expressed interest in purchasing a
harvester, Roberto alerted Roger, and Roger disapproved of
Similarly, when Roberto and Paul disagreed about a design for
a mud chisel, Roberto's idea garnered Roger's
blessing. Paul complained that Roberto was accorded special
privileges, such as keeping sheep and goats by the farm
workshop, drinking beer while working or after work, and
driving company vehicles home. According to Peter, the Ayala
brothers agitated Paul and he remarked, " Those
son-of-a-bitches, they are trying to take over my life.
I'm going to get that F'er." Peter testified
that Paul was severely depressed and he was afraid he was
facts, in large part, form the basis for Paul's arguments
at trial and on appeal.
or Paul: Substantial Evidence to Support the Verdict
was no direct evidence of who designed, constructed, or
placed the explosive device. There were no eyewitnesses, no
confessions, no admissions, and no fingerprints or DNA
evidence found on any of the parts of the explosive device
found at the scene of the murder. Defendant insists there is
no substantial evidence that he murdered Roberto Ayala, and
the weak circumstantial evidence of his guilt is insufficient
to sustain the verdict in the context of the more compelling
evidence that his cousin Peter was the perpetrator.
does not quarrel with the limited scope of appellate review
of an insufficiency claim. He acknowledges, as he must, that
our task is to review the whole record in the light most
favorable to the [210 Cal.Rptr.3d 774] jury verdict to
determine whether it discloses substantial evidence--evidence
that is reasonable, credible, and of solid value--such that a
reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt. ( People v. Davis (2009)
46 Cal.4th 539, 606 [94 Cal.Rptr.3d 322');">94 Cal.Rptr.3d 322, 208 P.3d 78].) We
are not at liberty to reweigh evidence or revisit credibility
issues. ( People v. Ochoa (1993) 6 Cal.4th 1199,
1206 [26 Cal.Rptr.2d 23');">26 Cal.Rptr.2d 23, 864 P.2d 103].) If the verdict is
supported by substantial evidence, we must defer to the trier
of fact; yet a verdict cannot be sustained based on "
'suspicion alone, or on imagination, speculation,
supposition, surmise, conjecture, or guess work.'" (
People v. Morris (1988) 46 Cal.3d 1, 21 [249
Cal.Rptr. 119, 756 P.2d 843].)
there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence that either
Peter or Paul, or perhaps Peter and Paul together, built and
planted the bomb that
killed Roberto Ayala. We will review that evidence in two
steps: first, we will outline the evidence of solid, credible
value the jury could have reasonably relied upon in finding
Paul guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. And second,
we will test the substantiality of that evidence in light of
the entire record, that is to say, in light of the compelling
circumstantial evidence that Peter, not Paul, blew up Roberto
Circumstantial Evidence Against Paul
Opportunity and Familiarity
returned to work on the farm a few years before the
explosion. He took on additional responsibilities as his back
healed, and by July 2011 Roger had decided to bring on Paul
as a 50 percent partner of his half of the farm operation.
his apprenticeship, Paul worked alongside Roberto. In fact,
after Roberto injured his shoulder, Paul accompanied him on
occasion to the irrigation pumps to adjust water levels. In
early July, Paul was asked to drive out to the rice field to
turn on the water pump without Roberto. From this evidence,
the jury could reasonably infer that because Paul was
familiar with Roberto's routine, he could specifically
target Roberto by placing the bomb in an electrical pump
panel he knew Roberto would be operating. He was familiar,
therefore, not only with Roberto's working routine, but
also with the operation of the pump.
Unique Skill Set
told investigators that his electrical experience was limited
to fixing an electrical outlet and that he had no experience
working on the pump control panels. According to the
testimony offered by his father, his son, and his
ex-father-in-law, that was a lie.
son Gunner testified that when Paul was young, he rewired the
light switch in his bedroom so he could turn off the light
from his bed, but if a person did not flip the switch in a
particular way, he or she would be shocked. Later, as a
father, Paul taught Gunner how to hardwire electronics to his
car battery so he would not have to use the cigarette lighter
to power the electronics in his car. Gunner believed his dad
could repair just about anything and could " make
something out of nothing." One of Paul's favorite
hobbies, according to Gunner, was assembling and flying
also reported that, according to his dad soon after the
explosion, his grandfather " feared that there was a
booby trap in the switch" and stated that " someone
must have been a genius to be able to do that, some type of
attested to his son's aptitude for building things,
albeit the examples he cited [210 Cal.Rptr.3d 775] were not
electric. He testified Paul constructed a rice roller and a
fertilizer aqua bar in the farm workshop.
defense objection, Paul's ex-father-in-law testified that
Paul apologized to him for tapping his daughter's
telephone when they were going through a divorce, putting
some kind of recorder under her modular home so he could
monitor conversations. The wiretapping occurred in 1995 or
1996. He also testified that Paul and a friend created an
acetylene bomb by combining acetylene gas and oxygen in a
balloon. The bomb exploded, injuring Paul and his friend.
That explosion occurred in about 1991.
this evidence, the jury could reasonably infer that Paul had
both the aptitude and unique skill set needed to build the
type of explosive device that killed Roberto Ayala. To be
sure, Paul had demonstrated an advanced mechanical aptitude
and an understanding of electrical currents.
Evidence From the Investigation
18: Two days after Roberto Ayala's
death, Paul delivered to investigators a piece of metal he
found in a canal near the explosion. He pointed out that the
markings or threading on the metal indicated to him the
explosion was not an accident. According to Paul, something
had been placed at the pump to cause the explosion. He told
investigators he had operated the panel five days before the
explosion, and he drew an accurate picture of the panel.
same day, Paul cast aspersions on Peter. The jurors could
have found his behavior odd, even calculated to focus the
investigators' attention on his cousin. He showed them
copies of text messages he had received from Peter in which
Peter expressed his displeasure with the condition of the
fields and suggested the field manager (Roberto Ayala) should
be fired. The investigators would later discover that Paul
had deleted individual text messages he had sent to and
received from Peter. Paul told the investigators that Peter
had been around the explosion site one day before the
On August 11 the investigators were informed that the
chemical testing of the fragments from the explosion
indicated the presence of nitroglycerine, a chemical used in
explosives. This information was not disclosed to the public.
next day, the investigators at the Colusa County
Sheriff's Department received a letter with a postmark
from Sacramento that they learned was processed by the postal
service in West Sacramento. The delivery and return addresses
were printed label strips made with a label maker. Eight
stamps were attached for postage. The text of the letter was
a photocopy of the original; it too contained printed label
strips made with a label maker. The letter read:
I am responsible for the panel explosion. I am military
trained. Expert in Vietnam devices. I received info and
instructions via USPS. Name, age, vehicle I.D. and plate
number. Location and meter number for panel. First three
fuses, the device had dual triggers and detonators. Trig one,
vibration activated. Trig two, drop weight activated upon
door opening. Two-inch gallon pipe and quart of gasoline in
plastic bottle. Upon detonation gas atomized for millisecond,
completed the circuit triggering flashover, thus
electrocution, fail safe and no disarming. Lab results will
be military-grade powder, black spray-painted epoxy, no DNA.
This was an MS-13 [Mara Salvatrucha, a violent gang] job,
something about a Mexico deal gone wrong.
Why am I helping u? I received another package via USPS,
target two, I will not [210 Cal.Rptr.3d 776] take this job
because the info I received is wrong. I got name, age,
vehicle description, plate number and location. The target is
brother of target one and drives Chevy. This vehicle info is
the same as the first job. White Ford, same plate number. I
finally found the Ford, and now it is driven by some young
guy, not the brother. Since I will not take this job, it will
soon be reassigned. Someone will take it. The next guy might
not catch the error in info and the wrong person will die.
I would decline anyway because I saw target two with his
girls and that I can't deal with. Target two knows the
Mexico connection and that is the reason 4 relocating n will
not help target two. They will find him. He needs to be
careful. They gave me two months 4 this job. It will be
reassigned in five weeks. Whoever is driving the Ford is very
much in danger. This was my first and final job. I am sure
MS-13 will figure out I tipped authorities and will soon come
for me. My house and property are protected, larger devices.
I am over this life. God [ sic ] luck. If u come 4
me, call first. I will come peacefully or detonate all the
not Peter, used abbreviations such as " u" and
" 4" in his text messages. The investigators did
not believe that a Mexican gang was involved in the explosion
because gangs typically advertise their involvement rather
than hide it, to incite fear and command respect.
August 15 the investigators received a second letter and a
diagram of a bomb. Like the first letter, the text of the
second was made with a label maker
and photocopied. This envelope had a postmark from Colusa.
The letter stated: " Ayala was actually warned what
would happen if he screwed with these people. He has
endangered others in his family. They now want the white Ford
F-250 hit. He thought he was safe in the States. Previously
driven by target one. They want the brother, but it is now
driven by some young guy, or do they want the young guy? This
is why I refused this job, but the next guy might kill both
to ensure payment. Whoever is driving that white F-250 is in
great danger. Another expert will do this job. The money is
good. After a career of killing, I want to save a life before
I take my life. If u have any questions, place ad in Sac Bee,
help wanted, make it the last ad ...