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Detective Tells Judge of Murder Suspect's Drug Use

Courts: David Alvarez bought cocaine the night Ojai teen Kali Manley was strangled, witness says.

July 28, 1999|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A detective testified Tuesday that murder suspect David Alvarez snorted cocaine and sought other drugs just hours before he allegedly strangled Oak View teen Kali Manley.

Sheriff's Det. Daniel Thompson told a judge during a preliminary hearing that on the night of Dec. 19, Alvarez was despondent over a fight with some friends and went to visit former schoolmate Robert Miears to score some cocaine.

The pair went then to a dealer in Ojai and bought $20 worth of the drug, which Alvarez used before asking Miears if he could also get some marijuana, Thompson said.

In the hours that followed, the detective testified, Alvarez and Miears picked up Kali Manley from her girlfriend's house, bought some wine coolers and drove to a Meiners Oaks trailer park.

It was there that Manley, a 14-year-old Nordhoff High School freshman, was allegedly murdered during an attempted rape. Alvarez, 22, is charged with those offenses and has pleaded not guilty.

Only two witnesses--Thompson and the defendant's 20-year-old ex-wife--were called to testify Tuesday during the first day of Alvarez's preliminary hearing.

The proceedings started several hours late because of a lack of available courtroom space, and were halted early because the judge had to turn his attention to an unrelated jury verdict.

Thompson had just begun to recount his interview with Miears when the hearing was cut short. He is expected to return to the witness stand this morning.

Lawyers are also expected to address a legal issue concerning the proposed testimony of Brooke Alvarez, the defendant's wife of four years.

In a barely audible voice, the former Ojai resident reluctantly took the witness stand Tuesday afternoon and told Superior Court Judge James P. Cloninger that she did not want to testify against her ex-husband.

The couple only recently divorced, and attorneys said she is now living in Idaho. State prosecutors flew her in to testify, but she indicated that she first wanted to talk to a lawyer.

Defense attorneys James M. Farley and Robert Schwartz say she cannot be compelled to testify against their client because of a marital privilege protecting spouses from incriminating each other in court.

"The law is very simple," Farley said after Tuesday's hearing. "The spouse has the right to claim the privilege--divorce does not wipe that out."

But Deputy Atty. Gen. Michael Katz has indicated in court papers that the marital privilege should not apply in this case, because the couple have been estranged for several years. They separated in 1997.

The attorneys are scheduled to argue the issue before Cloninger this morning, and then testimony is expected to resume. Brooke Alvarez was ordered to appear in court again today.

During her brief appearance in court Tuesday, the petite young woman, who dropped out of Nordhoff High School and married Alvarez when she was 16, stared at her hands and avoided eye contact with anyone.

Sitting several feet away at the defense counsel table, Alvarez watched his former spouse and rocked back and forth in a swivel chair. The couple have a 3-year-old son.

State prosecutors said in court Tuesday that they have offered her "use immunity" to testify, meaning that whatever she says in court cannot be held against her.

It is not clear what Brooke Alvarez would offer in the way of evidence. But court records have previously shown that David Alvarez went to his wife's home on the morning Manley was reported missing. Search warrant records also indicate that the some of the girl's belongings were found there.

While Brooke Alvarez discussed her offer of immunity and possible spousal privilege with a court-appointed lawyer, prosecutors called Thompson to testify.

He told the judge that he interviewed Miears at the sheriff's station in Ojai three days after Manley was reported missing by her father, Charles Manley, who sat in court Tuesday beside his wife, Holly.

Miears told Thompson that Alvarez drove them to a house in Meiners Oaks where they met two girls, Manley and her friend Ashley Helfrich. Alvarez asked the girls to come with them, but Helfrich refused.

Manley, however, went with the two men to a nearby convenience store where Miears purchased the wine coolers, Thompson said.

The trio then drove to a trailer park where Alvarez had access to a mobile home, and they drank the beverages.

That was as far as Thompson got in his testimony Tuesday. Both he and Brooke Alvarez are expected to be called back to the stand today. The hearing is expected to last at least another day and a half.

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