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Witnesses Disagree in Murder Case

Pair who dined out the night four were killed in a Chino Hills home in 1983 provide differing descriptions of mysterious men.

June 29, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Two friends who shared dinner at a Chino Hills restaurant on the 1983 evening when four people were murdered in a nearby home provided conflicting accounts Monday about the condition of some men in the restaurant on the night of the killings.

Christine Slonaker, a Nevada City woman who came forward in the days before convicted killer Kevin Cooper's scheduled execution in February to say she had seen men enter the restaurant "covered in blood," testified Monday in U.S. District Court that one of two men she noticed "had blood all over him -- on his shirt, his face, his shoes, his arms, everywhere."

But Mary Wolfe, the woman who accompanied Slonaker to the Canyon Corral Restaurant, testified that there were three men in the group and that only one had a small trace of blood on him, above his lips, with some possible small blood spots on his T-shirt.

The men in the restaurant have never been identified.

Slonaker's account to defense attorneys in February gained the attention of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which stayed Cooper's execution less than 24 hours before he was to die by lethal injection.

The appeals court asked U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff to investigate whether Cooper's prosecutors committed a federal violation by not revealing a possible police visit to the restaurant on the night of the murders that might have confirmed Slonaker's story.

Slonaker testified Monday that she saw a law enforcement officer at the door of the restaurant.

Wolfe said she "couldn't be sure" of ever seeing an officer that night, June 3, 1983.

Cooper's attorneys contend that Slonaker's account fits their theory of a possible alternate killer or killers.

Holly Wilkens, the assistant attorney general who prosecuted Cooper, said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department reports to be detailed in court today will confirm that law enforcement did not respond to a call regarding the three men at the restaurant on the night of the killings.

A bartender and two patrons have testified that they saw no blood on any of the three men in question.

The patrons, Linda Paulk and Pamela Smith, filed a police report in 1983, saying they were troubled after learning of the murders because they recalled that the men, in their 20s, entered the bar on the night of the killings dressed in heavy-metal fashion and "didn't fit in" with the country-western theme of the restaurant.

Outside court Monday, Wilkens noted that Slonaker never contacted the police about the "covered-in-blood" story. Slonaker said Monday that she thought someone else had provided law enforcement with the information.

"It's a very dramatic story [Slonaker] is telling, and no one else is confirming it," Wilkens said. "We all know people who like drama. I don't think this is remotely credible."

Slonaker testified that she decided to come forward in February at the urging of her children, who prompted her to wonder, "If they put [Cooper] to death and I didn't say anything, how would I have felt?"

The hearings will conclude today, and Huff will rule later whether a violation took place.

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