Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Three reluctant defense witnesses in the 2013 Arcata chef murder case appeared voluntarily in Humboldt County Superior Court Jan. 26 and affirmed they would return to testify when the trial of suspect Juan Joseph Ferrer begins, probably in April.
At a hearing before Judge Arvid Johnson today, Jan. 26, the three Arcata residents, Sarah Brody, Virginia Jimenez and Cher Southard, agreed to appear initially for jury selection to familiarize themselves with the legal arguments in the prosecution of Ferrer, 36. He is charged with murder in the fatal street-side slaying of Abruzzi chef Douglas Anderson-Jordet, 50, on Nov. 25, 2013.
Literally dozens of attempts last fall by a defense counsel investigator and Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies proved fruitless in reaching the three prospective witnesses, according to Ferrer’s attorney, Deputy Conflict Counsel Marek Reavis. At the time, Reavis said he had no information on why the three were, as he put it, “ducking” investigators.
Now, belatedly, they have agreed to cooperate and testify.
Based on statements each of the three gave to Arcata police in the immediate aftermath of Anderson-Jordet’s death, Reavis believes they can provide important trial testimony on the deceased’s prolonged history of angry and belligerent behavior when drunk. Anderson-Jordet’s blood alcohol level was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit to drive when he was slain, according to Reavis.
Virginia Jimenez was Anderson-Jordet’s ex-girlfriend at the time of his death and thoroughly familiar with his heavy drinking habit, Reavis said. They had socialized together as friends the afternoon and early evening before the slaying, which occurred between one and two a.m. at the corner of 11th and H Streets in Arcata, adjoining Vintage Avenger.
Reavis identified Cher Southard as the manager of the Crew House Arcata, where Jimenez and Anderson-Jordet, no longer intimates, resided in separate quarters. Like Jimenez, Southard told police she was familiar with the victim’s aggressive behavior when inebriated, according to Reavis.
His third material witness, Sarah Brody, reportedly overheard the epithets exchanged between one and two a.m. when the brief but fatal encounter between Anderson-Jordet and Ferrer occurred beneath her H Street apartment window. Ferrer was accompanied by two friends.
Ear witness Brody “heard yelling and cursing beneath her window from a male voice that she characterized as ‘enraged,’” Reavis quoted her as telling police. He recounted: “The same male voice passed under her window going north on H Street, shouting insults and slurs, including ‘Fuck you and your fat girlfriend!’”
That referred to Sophie Buttercup Rocheleau of Arcata, one of Ferrer’s companions when the drunken standoff broke out. The three had been socializing that evening in Arcata.
The testimony of Jimenez, Southard and Brody is pivotal to the defense, Reavis contends, because it corroborates Ferrer’s version of events: that he was frightened by Anderson-Jordet’s behavior and acted in preventive self-defense. He brandished a knife intending to deter the victim from assaulting him, without intent to kill him.
In another development at the Jan. 26 hearing, Judge Johnson and the prosecution agreed to a defense motion for an independent chemical analysis of blood drops by a private, independent laboratory.
Two sets of forensic samples of Anderson-Jordet’s blood were taken at two locations: one at 12th and H Streets opposite Wildberries Marketplace the night of the stabbing, where Anderson-Jordet’s body was found; the second sample, taken two or three days later by Arcata police investigators, was lifted at the scene of the stabbing at 11th &H. Reavis estimated that Anderson-Jordet walked up the hill some 80 yards or about 140 paces toward Wildberries before collapsing at the corner opposite the market at 12th and H.
A comparative analysis by the California Department of Justice determined that the drops of blood found near the body and between the treads of Anderson-Jordet’s footwear, versus the samples taken at the crime scene at 11th and H, showed the same levels of degradation.
Reavis expects the non-governmental analysis to confirm whether the two samples are the same blood type.
If they are, he reasons, it will demonstrate that Ferrer and his companions “did not leave Anderson-Jordet to die,” as his family and relatives claimed when they read their victim statements to the court at prior proceedings.