Major reversal in Arreaga murder trial

Fieldbrookkillings

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

FIELDBROOK/EUREKA – Surprise testimony today, Oct. 2 in the Jason Michael Arreaga double murder trial provided an unexpected eyewitness account which expressly identified the suspect from Lucerne as the perpetrator of the Fieldbrook shootings a year ago September that claimed the lives of lovers Angel Robin Tully and Harley Hammers Jr., both 37, of Eureka.

The apparent breakthrough testimony came from Fieldbrook lawn keeper and prosecution witness Rodney Coombes, who alleged that Arreaga brandished his pistol at him and yelled “Do you want some of this?!” as Coombes fled down the driveway of the residence where the two murders occurred.

Pointing to Arreaga at the defense table as the man with the gun, Coombes said Harley Hammers “got shot three times as he’s running down the driveway,” Coombes following Hammers as they both ran to escape the flying bullets.

Caught off-guard, Arreaga’s lawyer, Heidi Holmquist, immediately challenged the surprise account, confronting Coombes with the fact that police transcripts verify he did not tell detectives he had witnessed the gunfire when they interviewed him in the immediate aftermath.

Holmquist also called attention to Coombes’s rap sheet, portions of which he claimed not to remember.

Nevertheless, Coombes, who knew Hammers, stood his ground that he saw Arreaga wielding the gun. “I didn’t know if he was shooting at me or what,” he testified.

“And you actually saw this?” Holmquist asked skeptically.

“Yes,” Coombes answered firmly, saying Hammers “was getting out of his car” from the driver’s side  as the fatal encounter occurred.

Challenging Coombes head-on, Holmquist read aloud to him from the transcript of investigators’ interviews, quoting him as saying “I never seen him shoot nobody,” meaning Arreaga.

“I know I didn’t say that,” Coombes retorted. “They must have misunderstood me.”

Becoming agitated as Holmqvist zeroed in on the glaring discrepancy, Coombes bellowed, “Right now, this is a bunch of bullshit! I feel like I’m the one being prosecuted! It’s the same story [from a year ago] I’m telling you right now!”

So the recording and the transcript are mistaken, Holmquist parried, her tone edgy.

“I want to hear it [the recording]!” Coombes exclaimed. Holmquist replied evenly, “Well, we might get to that later.”

Next, she asked Coombes to describe the gun. “I couldn’t really describe it, I don’t know,” he replied.

But you are certain you saw it? “Yes, I saw a man with a gun. Harley was getting out of his car and I told the officers that.”

“I was scared to death,” Coombes added. He insisted that investigators “asked if I saw the shooting and I said I did. I told ‘em two, it might have been three” gun shots. He repeated “I didn’t even know if he was shooting at me, I was gettin’ the hell out of there!”

Asked by Holmquist, Coombes said he had not been drinking or using meth before of after the murders. He said he had been clean for sometime.

She queried him about his prior conviction for petty theft in 2007 and he declared flatly, “I never stole anything.” But he retreated immediately when she showed him his rap sheet.

Coombes also claimed he did not recall being convicted in 2013 of car theft – taking it without the owner’s consent – and being placed on 18 months’ probation.

The trial resumes Monday.

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