Zumot grilled over turbulent relationship with Schipsi

Suspect in Palo Alto murder recalls his arguments with Jennifer Schipsi, denies he was 'angry' at her

Editor's note: Follow the trial on Twitter. Go to!/paw_court

The two-year relationship between Bulos Zumot and Jennifer Schipsi was marked by a long sequence of fights, make-ups and police complaints -- often followed by retractions and reunions, according to testimony offered by witnesses over the course of Zumot's four-week trial.

But Zumot maintained Friday (Feb. 4), as he had earlier in the week, that he had never threatened Schipsi and that he wasn't responsible for her death on Oct. 15, 2009.

Zumot, who owned Da Hookah Spot in downtown Palo Alto at the time of his arrest, remained composed and spoke clearly Friday afternoon while Deputy District Attorney Charles Gillingham grilled him about the tumultuous relationship that Gillingham argued culminated in Zumot strangling Schipsi and setting their cottage on fire to cover up the crime.

"What makes you angry, Mr. Zumot?" Gillingham asked early in cross-examination.

"I am an easygoing person," Zumot replied. "I hardly get angry -- I get upset."

Zumot, 37, began testifying in his own defense on Wednesday, at which point he recited a series of disputes between Schipsi and himself -- disputes he attributed in large part to her anger and jealousy. Gillingham recalled some of the stories on Friday and asked Zumot whether he's telling the full truth about his own part in the disputes.

One of their first fights occurred on Feb. 7, 2008. Zumot had testified Wednesday that Schipsi tried to run him over and he kicked her car, damaging its grill. He acknowledged under cross-examination Friday that they had just argued and that Schipsi was trying to leave. He said he threw her stuff into the hallway and followed her to her car.

Zumot said Friday that he kicked the car as Schipsi was backing out and preparing to drive away. Gillingham argued that Schipsi was just trying to leave and asked Zumot, "At what point did you feel you were in danger?"

"Maybe she'd put it in drive and run me over," Zumot replied.

"But she didn't do it," Gillingham said.

Gillingham also pointed to Zumot's tendency to send Schipsi a flurry of text messages almost immediately after their disputes.

On March 13, 2008, they got into another argument and Schipsi told him not to call her or contact her again. Zumot admitted, under questioning from Gillingham, that he called her 21 times that night.

Gillingham said some of the texts expressed Zumot's love for Schipsi, while in others he said he wanted her to die.

"I don't remember that," Zumot said. "We text a lot -- sometimes in the hundreds."

The morning of March 14, 2008, Zumot and Schipsi clashed again near a Starbucks close to her house in San Jose. Zumot said he went to her neighborhood to meet his friend, Joe Martinez, a deputy sheriff in Monterey County who lived in the area. Zumot said he stopped by the Starbucks to get a cup of tea for Martinez when he saw Schipsi.

Zumot said she told him, "It's not working out," and informed him that she was sleeping with her boss.

Schipsi complained that after their argument at the Starbucks he spat in her face and cursed at her, calling her a "bitch" and a "whore." Zumot acknowledged that he said those things and said he was wrong to do so.

"When someone cheats on you, it's the worst feeling ever," Zumot said.

Despite their breakup, Zumot sent her 88 text messages that day, Gillingham said. Zumot admitted that he sent her the messages and said he needed to know why she cheated on him.

"Do you find it normal that after she told you she's sleeping with her boss, you texted her 88 times?" Gillingham asked.

"Not really," Zumot said.

In one text that morning, Schipsi told Zumot, "I will avoid any contact with u. Now please stop texting me." Later that afternoon, he wrote to her, "Ur a cancer and u know it." He followed that message an hour later with, "I have 2 get u out of my life @ any price."

But later that evening, he sent another message saying, "I am very sorry to wat happened and wat I caused u I ask god and Jennfer 2 forgive me. Please just pray 4 me so I can change and 2 a better person. I am sorry."

Gillingham asked Zumot, "What does 'at any price' mean to you?"

Zumot responded that it means taking peaceful actions to make things better.

"Not murder? Not strangling to death?" Gillingham asked.

"I did not strangle Jennifer," Zumot said.

Zumot testified Wednesday that he once filed a police complaint against Schipsi after she hit him in the head with his keys, causing blood to flow. After she received an arrest warrant, he bailed her out and changed his story to make sure the district attorney would drop the charges against her, Zumot testified.

Gillingham pointed to this incident and asked Zumot what the difference is between him lying on Schipsi's behalf back in 2008 and him lying to the jury this week to beat a murder charge.

"I've been in jail for 16 months for something I did not do," Zumot replied. "I wouldn't lie about it."

Zumot said he and Schipsi had their "disputes," at which point Gillingham asked him for his definition of "dispute." Is calling someone a "whore" or a "bitch" a dispute, he asked. Would you call a "dispute" saying, "I'll f---ing kill you"?

Zumot said he was "100 percent wrong" in calling Schipsi those names during their arguments, but denied having ever threatened her. Earlier in the trial, the jury heard testimony from a Palo Alto police officer who recalled the day in August 2009 that Schipsi came to the station saying she had been threatened and was fearing for her life.

Zumot and Schipsi made up in early September, but the following month they were arguing once again. On Oct. 14 they got into a fight on their way back to Palo Alto from Zumot's birthday party in Sunnyvale. She ended up walking home alone while Zumot stayed at Da Hookah Stop with a group of friends, numerous witnesses testified.

Zumot said she was crying in the car during their drive that night. He decided to give her space to "diffuse the situation."

After a few hours at Da Hookah Spot, Zumot asked his friend, Victor Chaalan, to serve as the "middleman" and to call Schipsi to ask if Zumot could go home that night. He said he and Schipsi made up later that night, smoked hookah and had sex.

The following morning, Zumot said he received a call from the Palo Alto police informing him they had completed a report for a complaint he had filed nine days earlier. Zumot said the complaint was against Hisham Ghanma, who he said threatened to kill him and Schipsi.

During his direct examination Friday morning, Zumot said he went to the Palo Alto police station shortly after 11 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2009. As he was walking out of the house, he said Schipsi requested a latte and asked for a hug but he kept walking.

Zumot said he couldn't find a parking spot at the police station that morning, so he went back to the house. Meanwhile, Schipsi was sending him a string of text messages demanding money that she said he owed her.

She threatened in her texts to go to the San Jose police at 3 p.m. that day if he didn't pay. Zumot said she had loaned him $10,000 but he had paid her back long ago.

Zumot said he came back home, talked to Schipsi for a few minutes, exercised, ate breakfast and made a second trip to the Palo Alto police station at about 12:30 p.m., but once again couldn't find parking.

He said he stopped at Peet's Coffee and Tea to pick up the latte Schipsi had asked for.

After that, he said he went home, saw Schipsi sleeping, and left the drink on a nightstand next to her. He said he then went to the Palo Alto police station, parked and picked up the report.

He testified that he then went to Da Hookah Spot, counted the money, made sure everything was in order and left for his domestic-violence class in San Jose. He said he stopped at his cousin's warehouse in Mountain View and at Restaurant Depot in Sunnyvale to pick up some supplies for Da Hookah Spot.

Zumot said after his class let out at 5:55 p.m., he drove back to the cafe in Palo Alto. He said he was smoking a hookah and drinking tea when he got a call from his landlord, John Eckland, informing him that the cottage was on fire.

Related stories:

Zumot breaks down on stand: 'I still love her'

Defense begins its case in Zumot trial

Witnesses recall Zumot's arson threats

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Intrigued
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I sooooo want to believe him. I want to give Zumot the benefit of the doubt. However, the history of his relationship with Jennifer is full of contradictions. From love to hate, from tolerance to lack of sensitivity. I highly doubt the jurors will believe his story. I just pray that justice will be done, whatever the result may be.

Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 4, 2011 at 11:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by dan
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2011 at 8:35 am

It is easy to assume that a suspect who "kicks cars, spits at his girlfriend, calls her vile names, then minutes later is crying and apologizing, texting and calling Jennifer incessantly" is guilty, but remember, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that he did kill her to justify a conviction. It is rather rare that a guilty suspect does not break down after such intense cross-examination. It is better to let a thousand guilty men go, than to convict one innocent one. I am not familiar with the specifics of this case, but based on this article, I think the case should be dismissed, regardless of whether he actually did it or not.

Like this comment
Posted by dan
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2011 at 8:43 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 5, 2011 at 8:59 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

"I think the case should be dismissed, regardless of whether he actually did it or not."

Really? You're kidding, right?

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

As someone posted on another thread, men who abuse women are used to crying and showing remorse. Sounds like both had/have personalities that love drama. Not a good match.

Like this comment
Posted by watcher
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

watcher is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by ladrome
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

ladrome is a registered user.

This case is nothing to laugh at, but really.... I agree with Hulkamania... whether he did it or not... dismiss the case? LOL.

I hope this will serve as a cautionary tale for all those who are into drama relationships. THIS IS NOT LOVE! When your boyfriend threatens to kill you and calls you a whore... it's not love.

Jennifer is dead, so real justice will never occur.

And how was domestic violence class working?

Like this comment
Posted by ladrome
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

ladrome is a registered user.

This case is nothing to laugh at, but really.... I agree with Hulkamania... whether he did it or not... dismiss the case? LOL.

I hope this will serve as a cautionary tale for all those who are into drama relationships. THIS IS NOT LOVE! [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

Prison and death row have plenty of people who murdered the person they supposedly loved.

Like this comment
Posted by Fleur de Lis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2011 at 9:59 am

Fleur de Lis is a registered user.

One thing for sure is that the two had a very toxic relationship.

People should learn to look into who the people are before getting involved in any kind of relationship, whether it be a personal (friend or lover) or professional relationship (hiring anyone, whether it be a house cleaner, pet sitter, tenant, or contractor of any sort). Seriously, check into who you are dealing with, and don't assume at the start of any relationship that just because the person seems charming that they are mentally well. Check public records, look for criminal charges and lawsuits to see if the person is troubled. Do they pay their bills? If not, there will be lawsuits against the person. Check court case information in the county the person resides in, and any nearby county for the credibility of the person. You might save yourself a lot of heartache and trouble, and avoid such a relationship as the two had. Troubled people will typically have difficulty with both personal relationships, and likely in the way they manage all other aspects of their life. Such a shame, and my condolences to all the family members involved in this case.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Contemporary Indian restaurant, Ettan, headed to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 6,112 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,386 views

Is racism also a local problem?
By Diana Diamond | 37 comments | 1,105 views

Two degrees can do all that?
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 929 views

Tame, Maim and Claim the Wild Sea Vegetable
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 519 views


Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More