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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.