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Two nights after the October 2009 death of his girlfriend, Jennifer Schipsi, and a fire that ravaged their cottage, Bulos "Paul" Zumot was playing cards with friends at his Palo Alto business, Da Hookah Spot, a friend, Heather Winters, testified in a San Jose courtroom Wednesday (Jan. 26).
"I said, 'Hi.' He didn't say anything," Winters said of her Saturday-night encounter.
Winters told Deputy District Attorney Chuck Gillingham that Zumot, through whom she met and socialized with Schipsi, didn't tell her about Schipsi's death on that Saturday evening. She didn't learn of it until the following Monday, she said.
Zumot is accused of killing Schipsi and setting fire to the rental cottage they shared in order to destroy evidence of his crime. He was on probation for domestic abuse at the time of her death.
Schipsi had told Winters in August 2009, during an off-period in her on-and-off relationship with Zumot, that he was abusive and that she had a safety deposit box that contained a note that said, "If anything happens to me, then Paul did it," Winters said.
"She called me and let me know," Winters said of the note.
Jacob Allen, a friend and former fiancee of Schipsi's, who dated her for nine years before she began dating Zumot, also took the stand Wednesday and recounted a similar story about the Wells Fargo safety-deposit box.
Defense Attorney Mark Geragos challenged Allen's testimony that he heard the story of the safety-deposit-box note from Schipsi, citing Palo Alto Police Department files. Geragos referred to audio recordings of a police interview that took place a month after Schipsi's death.
Questioned about Schipsi's text message and phone usage, central evidence in the case against Zumot, Allen said Schipsi left her phone on even as she slept and that she was always connected, checking e-mails, texting and calling.
Allen testified that he read "disturbing" text messages sent by Zumot to Schipsi early in their stormy relationship, when Schipsi first requested a restraining order against Zumot when living at San Jose's Santana Row.
"It would be 'I hope you die,' but it wouldn't say 'I want to kill you,'" Allen said.
Allen said he received a call from Schipsi requesting his help as she hurriedly moved her belongings from the residence she later shared with Zumot in Palo Alto, although the defense tried to render his description of her state of mind inadmissable.
"She was very frantic, stressed out. ... She was actually trying to pick what to take."
While Geragos several times raised objections to Gillingham's questions, Gillingham said he intends to file a motion Thursday to designate witness' testimony about Zumot's threats and abuse, which might otherwise be considered hearsay, as admissible evidence.
"The legal theory is that he killed her to keep her from going to tell police," Gillingham said Wednesday after the court proceedings.