News

Zumot concludes testimony in his own murder trial

Palo Alto man denies girlfriend was angry at him on afternoon before her death

When Bulos Zumot arrived at the scene of his burning cottage on Oct. 15, 2009, he began making calls to friends, co-workers and his landlord in hopes of locating his girlfriend, Jennifer Schipsi, Zumot testified at his arson-and-murder trial Monday.

These included his friend Joe Martinez, a deputy sheriff at Monterey County, the employees at Da Hookah Spot, and his girlfriend's mother, Jamie Schipsi.

On Monday, in his final day of testimony, Zumot parried suggestions from prosecutor Charles Gillingham that he could have made a greater effort to contact Schipsi herself.

Zumot's phone calls and text messages, as well as his actions on the day of the fire, reemerged Monday as the focus of Gillingham's cross-examination of Zumot, a Palo Alto resident who police believe strangled Schipsi and burned the house to cover up the crime.

Gillingham showed the jury a series of messages that Schipsi sent Zumot on the morning of Oct. 15, 2009, demanding money and threatening to call the police. He pointed to these messages as evidence that they had a major fight hours before her body was found.

Zumot's attorney, Tina Glandian, cited other occasions in which Schipsi barraged Zumot with a series of offensive messages, only to make up with him shortly after. She noted their fight the night before the fire, when Schipsi walked from Da Hookah Spot on University Avenue back to the cottage after an argument with Zumot. Later that night, Zumot said he and Schipsi had sex and recorded it.

Zumot testified that there was nothing unusual about her venting at him and then reconciling. He called Schipsi a "forgiver" and said she followed the same pattern on Oct. 15, 2009 -- a string of angry messages followed by a quick reconciliation.

He said she was sending him the messages to "push my buttons" and to "get a reaction."

Gillingham also challenged Zumot's earlier testimony about his actions on the day of the fire. Last week, when he was questioned by Glandian, Zumot testified that he was certain he arrived at Da Hookah Spot at 6:32 p.m. that day -- about seven minutes before the fire was reported.

At the time, Zumot said he knew it was exactly 6:32 p.m. because he had just unplugged his iPhone from its car charger as he was arriving at the cafe and the phone's dark screen lit up, displaying the exact time.

On Monday, Gillingham showed Zumot a transcript from a phone conversation Zumot had while in jail. During that phone call, Zumot told the other person that he arrived at the location at 6:20 or 6:25 p.m.

Zumot said he was locked up in a maximum-security cell for 60 straight hours and allowed to go outside for one hour. He said he was stressed out at the time of the phone call and may have given the wrong information.

"I might have," Zumot said. "I was under a lot of stress, a lot of confusion."

"Stress made you say 6:20 to 6:25 p.m. versus what you knew to be the truth?" Gillingham countered.

Gillingham also recalled Zumot's earlier testimony that his domestic-violence class in San Jose got out at about 5:55 p.m. that evening, a key detail given that the Addison Avenue fire was reported about 45 minutes later. Zumot also said he called his employees at Da Hookah Spot immediately after the class got out.

On Monday, Gillingham showed Zumot's phone records indicating he made calls at 5:45, 5:46 and 5:47 p.m.

After Gillingham pressed Zumot on the time of the calls, Zumot said he wasn't sure exactly when the class got out.

Zumot also testified that while at the class he was deleting text messages from his phone -- most of which were exchanges with Schipsi that involved Schipsi insulting him, demanding money that she claimed he owed her and threatening to go to the police if he didn't pay.

Zumot offered several explanations for why he deleted those texts. He first said he wanted to get rid of "negative" messages in his phone. When Gillingham pointed to seemingly innocuous messages and asked Zumot why he deleted those, he said he deleted them because they meant nothing. Minutes later, Zumot said he "just randomly picked which I delete."

Gillingham then asked Zumot why he deleted a message he sent to Schipsi on the night of Oct. 14, 2009, asking her, "Where r u?"

"I can't give you an answer -- there is no reason," Zumot said. "I delete whatever I want whenever I want."

Zumot also maintained that he did not owe Schipsi any money and that he never threatened her, her text messages notwithstanding.

"She's lying," Zumot said when Gillingham pointed to a text in which Schipsi demands money for a series of items she claimed Zumot destroyed. "She's trying to make money off me."

Zumot said they had completely reconciled on Oct. 15 and "everything was fine." He said he became extremely concerned about Schipsi when he learned the house was on fire. He said he drove to the house immediately but was told by Palo Alto police Officer Craig Lee not to go inside.

Lee, who testified for the second time Monday afternoon, recalled Zumot making a series of phone calls from the scene and looking upset but not actually crying.

One of those phone calls was to his friend, Joe Martinez, a deputy sheriff at Monterey County. Witnesses testified earlier that Martinez and Schipsi did not get along and Gillingham asked Zumot Monday why he chose to call Martinez if he was concerned about Schipsi.

"I called Joe Martinez to ask him what should I do," Zumot said. "He told me this is not a coincidence. Be careful."

Gillingham asked him how many times he tried actually calling Schipsi. Zumot said he tried calling her once or twice, but maintained that he made many calls to people who he hoped would tell him where Schipsi was first.

At about 7:45 p.m. he called his landlord, John Eckland, to ask him if Schipsi's car was parked in the driveway. He said he became more concerned when he learned it was.

Gillingham then revisited the record of phone calls Zumot made from the scene.

"After Eckland told you her car was there, you called her zero times?" Gillingham asked.

"I don't remember," Zumot responded.

When his own attorney later questioned him about these phone calls, Zumot testified that he had already made several calls and sent several texts to Schipsi earlier that day and had assumed she would respond when she noticed those calls.

The trial will continue Tuesday morning.

Related stories:

Zumot grilled over turbulent relationship with Schipsi

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

Defense begins its case in Zumot trial

Witnesses recall Zumot's arson threats

Follow the trial on Twitter. Go to twitter.com/#!/paw_court

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Domanica
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Domanica is a registered user.

"Gillingham showed the jury a series of messages that Schipsi sent Zumot on the morning of Oct. 15, 2009, demanding money and threatening to call the police"

A "victim" of domestic violence does not threaten her abuser. She does not degrade him and say "I will seek ultimate justice if you don't pay me" A woman who is abused is scared, does not yell and say she will seek revenge.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Doesn't sound like she was a victim of abuse. Sounds like they both were drama royalty. Some people are drawn to drama for the thrill. A normal relationship is just too boring for drama royalty.


Like this comment
Posted by Domanica
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Domanica is a registered user.

Pali Alum,

I agree , I don't believe she was a victim of abuse either. In fact, the abuse seems to have come from her toward him. She was caught lying several times to the police and recanted her story in police reports, this according to police testimony.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Of course the murder victim was also a victim of domestic violence. It also sounds like she was violent towards him; it doesn't have to be one way or the other, it can be both. Any cop will tell you that there are many couples who are both violent towards each other and often have their preferred m.o. Some are mentally/verbally abusive, some just physically, some all of that combo, which is what Zumot comes across as.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Domanica
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Domanica is a registered user.

Hmmm,

I know EXACTLY what I'm talking about . I was a victim of violence, so dont you EVER tell me I don't know what I'm talking about!!!! I see the signs and I know who is being honest and who is real. Jennifer, died in a horrible way but she was not a victim of domestic violence. She used it to her advantage. I see countless woman everyday claim that they are victims only to get back at there lover. It'd disgusting and sad that they make false claims like this when there are real individuals going through the real violence and are truly scared for their safety.

If she was a victim, which she wasnt then where are all the pictured of bruises. Hmmm, no pictures because there are none. Oh wait, I take that back, didn't I read that Zumot had pictures of the violence against him. Yes yes yes,,. That's right, she would say domestic violence but it was her being violent to him.


Like this comment
Posted by watcher
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 8, 2011 at 6:04 am

watcher is a registered user.

The defendant's bravado in thinking his plot was well thought out will be his undoing.


Like this comment
Posted by watcher
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 8, 2011 at 6:05 am

watcher is a registered user.

Domanica,

Jennifer Schipsi is DEAD! She's IS a VICTIM.


Like this comment
Posted by Domanica
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 8, 2011 at 8:07 am

Domanica is a registered user.

Yes, she is dead but NOT because she of domestic violence!

Btw, don't acuse me of being a cheerleader for Zumot , I don't know him. I'm a cheerleader for the truth, her story's are all far from the truth, she was caught several times in lies but you just don't want to see that.

Have a great day!


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

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