The boyfriend of Jennifer Marie Schipsi, 29, whose body was found in a burned Addison Avenue cottage last week, was arrested late Monday afternoon and charged with homicide and arson.
Police arrested Bulos "Paul" Zumot, 36, at about 5:30 p.m. Monday at his downtown Palo Alto hookah shop, Da Hookah Spot, said Sgt. Dan Ryan, Palo Alto police spokesman. Zumot was charged with killing Schipsi and then setting fire to the Addison Avenue house they shared.
Zumot was to be booked at the Santa Clara County main jail Monday night, Ryan said.
"We believe this was an act of passion, an act of domestic violence that led to her death," Ryan said. "We believe the arson was made to cover up her murder."
The couple has been dating for two years and had feuded and split up on numerous occasions only to get back together, Ryan said. In spring of 2008, Schipsi applied for a restraining order against Zumot but in October 2008 asked the court to revoke the "stay-away" provision in the restraining order.
Zumot had also been arrested in the past for domestic violence, Ryan said.
Ryan said the death followed a birthday party in San Jose Wednesday to celebrate Zumot's birthday, when the couple was with 10 to 15 people, Ryan said. Investigators would appreciate hearing from those at the party about how Zumot and Schipsi were interacting, he added.
But Ryan said he couldn't confirm rumors that Zumot had proposed to Schipsi and been rejected.
Firefighters responded to the fire at 969 Addison Ave. about 6:45 p.m. the next day, Oct. 15. By that time, landlord John Eckland -- who lives in a house behind Zumot and Schipsi -- and one of his friends had already doused most of the flames.
Ryan said the police are still investigating Zumot's exact motive.
"She's had restraining orders against him in the past, but she had an on-again-off-again relationship with him," Ryan said.
The couple moved into the house at 969 Addison a little over a month ago, Eckland said.
He said he hadn't seen Schipsi for four days before the fire.
The police received an autopsy report from the Santa Clara Coroner's Office on Monday, which led them to conclude that Schipsi was killed before the fire. Her body was badly burned in the fire, and she was unrecognizable when fire officials found her in the burned bedroom.
Schipsi had lived in San Jose before moving with Zumot to the Addison Avenue house. She was working as a real estate agent in the Palo Alto office of Alain Pinel, specializing in residential sales.
Ryan couldn't say how, when or where Schipsi was killed.
An SUV believed to belong to Zumot was towed from in front of Da Hookah Shop shortly after Zumot's arrest and taken to the police station behind City Hall. But Ryan said he did not know whether it may have been directly involved in Schipsi's death.
"We're still in the middle of that investigation," Ryan said.
Zumot's arrest followed four days of "intensive, around-the-clock investigation" involving many police officers and investigators from other jurisdictions, Ryan said. The Santa Clara County Fire Investigation Task Force and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted with the investigation.
Aaron Sunseri was the lead detective on the case, under the supervision of Sgt. Con Maloney, Ryan said.
"But literally everyone in the department, from the chief to the lowest beat officer, was involved," he said.
Zumot and Schipsi also applied for a restraining order earlier this month against two brothers, Tony and Hisham Ghanma, whom Schipsi claimed threatened her and Zumot. But Ryan said Zumot, not the brothers, is the focus of the police investigation.
The brothers "are not the target of any investigation," Ryan said.
Police notified Schipsi's family about her death on Monday, Ryan said. He said the crime felt particularly horrifying because it came in the middle of Domestic Awareness Month.
"It's very sad for us today," Ryan said. "We just got off the phone with the parents of the victim in this case and we had to notify them that their daughter was the victim of homicide."