Opinion Piece By Linda Sutter, August 28, 2017 –
It all started on March 19, 2017. Todd Burhes and Timothy Thompson begin partying early in the evening. First with Meth, then down to Crivelli’s Bar in Klamath for a bottle of whisky. According to Todd Burhes, “When we got to the bar we saw a guy that looked like Charles Manson, (the defendant in this case, Soldano) We didn’t talk to him, according Todd Burhes, aka Thunder, they spoke only to the Bartender Colette. After a brief discussion, Thunder and Tim Thompson left the bar to go visit friends.
Somewhere after midnight, Thunder and Thompson decided to return to the bar, according to Thunder, Tim Thompson was intoxicated, so Thunder drove the vehicle back to the Corvallis bar. However, before they reached the bar they took Ryan Ray home to the Glen in Klamath.
Thunder and Tim Thompson arrived at Crivelli’s at approximately 0140 hours in the morning. When they arrived at the bar they noticed Soldano; where Soldano asked Thunder and Thompson if they would go into the bar and look for his truck keys. Thunder knocked on the bar door and requested to come into the bar and look for keys once he got the keys he exited the bar. Once outside Thunder saw Thompson talking to Soldano while Soldano was sitting in his vehicle.
Thunder stated Soldano then stabbed Timothy Thompson while Thompson was standing outside Soldano’s truck after calling Timothy a effing Indian. Thunder stated he was standing by the side mirror of the truck and after Thompson had been stabbed, Soldano stabbed Thunder on the left side of Thunders chest area. Thunder stated he then called 911. Thunder stated that Soldano exited the vehicle and had a hard time opening the door because he had to push Timothy Thompson out of the way to get out of the vehicle.
Thunder stated Thompson was next to vehicle when he went down onto the ground. Thunder stated law enforcement arrived 1 to 2 hours later and arrested defendant Soldano.
Thunder stated several people in the parking lot had guns. Thompson was carried up to the porch of the bar by Thunder and Colette the bartender. Thunder stated that Zach the bartender’s boyfriend slashed Soldano’s front tires. The story that Burhess aka Thunder told would be less than credible after defense displayed Thunder on video telling an entirely different story to the police. Thunder also is on parole at the time of this event.
Witness Sergeant Ed Fleshmen, Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office
Ed Fleshmen stated he arrived on scene before 0200 hours. Cal Fire on scene performing CPR on Timothy Thompson. Deputy Justin Gil was also on scene as well as Chief Masten.
Fleshmen stated, ” Suspect Soldano was apprehended 15 minutes after arriving on the scene. Soldano was beaten by a mob, and it was not possible to secure a crime scene. CHP were not available. Every deputy was at the scene. There were 3 people requiring ambulance transport and we were GROSSLY UNDERSTAFFED FOR A HOMICIDE. We didn’t have the ability to isolate to prevent cross contamination. There was a vocal group of people outside the crime perimeter.”
When Fleshmen was asked , “What were the reasons why no arrest was made for the beating up of Soldano?” his reply was, “I did not have the resources to handcuff them for there was no where to put them.” Cross contamination of statements made by witnesses could not be prevented.
Soldano was transported to the hospital for possible head injury. Corvallis bar has security cameras but no security footage available. A lot of people were milling around the area and Fleshmen asked Chief Masten of Yurok Tribal Police to assist. Jeff Tom made the 911 call regarding the worry that Soldano would be killed.
Justin Gil originally responded to the scene only to leave a short time later because a second homicide occurred.
Fleshmen states, “ I detailed Deputy Ashberry to collect evidence on victims and suspects. No pictures of Soldano’s injuries were taken nor recorded how extensive his injuries were.”
Fleshmen stated there was no blood on the vehicle or by the vehicle, he requested a search warrant and the DA’s office took that.
Soldano’s vehicle was not processed after it had been towed.
The automated system of 911 shows the call came in around 0235 and Fleshmen arrived at 0301.
Buc Scott who was also at Crivelli’s bar that evening stated to Fleshmen, “I observed initial altercation and it started near bar room door.”
Deputy Justin Gil conducted a search on Soldano and took out a pocket knife from his pants pocket and set the knife on top of the patrol car. Sgt. Fleshmen secured it until it could be packaged. No mention of how much time elapsed before the knife was collected for evidence. No blood was found on the knife.
When Soldano was arrested he seemed confused and did not understand why he was arrested, he didn’t do anything wrong.
NEXT WITNESS DEPUTY JUSTIN GILL
Deputy Justin Gill responded from Highway 199 code 3 to a call for two stabbing victims. The call came around 0230 and he arrived at approximately 0250 hours. Deputy Gil was the first officer on scene and Sgt Fleshmen arrived approximately 15 minutes later.
“When I arrived the scene was chaotic. People standing everywhere. I went into bar to talk with the bartender, Colette Winegold. I left bar and went into the parking lot after hearing suspect had returned. I observed one subject on ground and multiple other subjects standing around him yelling and screaming. Sergeant Fleshmen had to withdraw his weapon. I placed Soldano in handcuffs and removed him from the circle of people and placed him in the back of the patrol car. There were roughly 6-8 people surrounding defendant.”
Spontaneous statements from Soldano were he had been beaten up, he did nothing wrong, and needed help.
“I visually looked at Soldano’s truck and saw 2 front tires slashed, the drivers window rolled down passenger window was up and locked.
I received a brief statement from Jeffry Thoms. He said he was at a house behind the bar when Soldano ran up and asked for white people to come help him. “I need white boys the Indians are trying to get me.” Thoms said Soldano was holding a closed pocket knife in his right hand.”
Deputy Gill interviews Mahoney. Mahoney stated Soldano was kicked out of the bar due to intoxication. Mahoney stated he heard people screaming that they had been stabbed. Mahoney went outside and saw that Thompson and Thunder had been injured. Mahoney stated Thompson and Thunder told him Soldano stabbed them.
During questioning by Prosecuting Attorney Drossel Deputy Gill had read the miranda rights to Soldano, but had not informed Sgt. Fleshmen he had done so.
Processing of the Crime Scene
Pictures of the truck were taken approximately one hour after arrival on the scene. The lighting situation was dim. No pictures of injuries were taken. When Deputy Gill asked Thunder to describe the knife, he stated it was a large knife. Deputy Gill Did not see any blood on the inside or outside of the truck. Did not see blood on the ground near the truck.
Looking for weapons was a perimeter sweep. No crime scene tape.
DEPUTY SHERIFF JARIN GILL, WITNESS
Deputy Jarin Gill received call to respond from his home at approximately 0300 hours. He arrived on scene at 0430 hours. He began to assist in collecting evidence. He found 6 different spots of blood on the porch of the Crivelli’s bar and one area of vomit. Samples were taken and placed in evidence. Shortly before 0600 second homicide occurred. Deputy Gill left the current crime scene and responded to the new homicide.
Prior to his leaving the Crivelli’s crime scene he observed a pick up truck pull up with 3 individuals in it. They high beamed him. They pulled around the back side of the building for a short moment and then returned to the front of the bar where they again high beamed Deputy Gill. This time he noticed a shotgun carried by one of the people in the truck. He realized these were the individuals who were the suspects of the new homicide case. No crime scene barrier tape had been put up prior to the new suspects arriving. One subject got out of the vehicle and was on the patio but went back to his truck. The new suspects had left.
Deputy Jarin Gill continued with collecting evidence. No blood was observed anywhere on the vehicle, nothing on the ground resembling blood was found. Soldano’s truck was towed, but the officer did not know where it was towed to.
DEPUTY ALEX PEARSON, WITNESS
Deputy Pearson received detail of impounded vehicle and had to help with search warrant. California Auto 1830 hours he checked for evidence of blood none was found. Checked for identity of Soldano, found no weapons and no blood on shirt that was laying in the front seat of Soldano’s vehicle.
At the Sheriff’s office a bag of clothing was given to Pearson from Sgt. Fleshmen who had asked him to process it. Inside one bag was a grey shirt with red stain, 1 pair of jeans, grey tube socks, and boxers.
Pearson had asked for a luminol device but Sheriff’s office does not have the luminol device and it was not conducted on the truck. “I recommended to Sergeant Griffin to do that and left it in his hands.”
“I took pictures and processed the black jeans, there was no blood. There was feces on interior of pants. Boxers had feces in the same area as the pants. There was fecal material on ankle portion of socks. The way the items were bagged there was cross contamination of the clothing. The chain of custody of this evidenced bag of clothing first started with Sgt. Fleshmen who handed it to Otruba, Deputy Otruba handed back to Sgt. Fleshmen who gave it to Deputy Ashberry, who returned it back to Fleshmen who then handed it to me.”
BARTENDER COLETTE WINEGOLD
Colette Winegold stated she was a volunteer bartender. She stated Soldano walked into the bar and offered to buy a round of drinks for everyone. Ordered himself a shot of Jack Daniels. She stated his demeanor at the bar was, “just wanted to play pool.” At some point Soldano was asked to leave the bar and left the bar between 0115- 0125 hours. Bar closed at 0135 to 0145 hours.
Soldano tried to come back into the bar because he could not locate his keys. Zach walked him through the bar and Soldano could not find his keys. Soldano was escorted out of the bar by Zach Williams Gilespie and the bar door was then locked.
Thunder and Thompson came back to the bar at this time and knocked on the door to make one last purchase for the evening. Tim Thompson asked if we had Soldano’s keys at that time and we said we did not have them. I escorted Thunder and Thompson back outside the bar where I noticed Soldano was standing by his truck. I went back into the bar and began bar clean up.
Minutes later there was a knock at the door. I opened the door to thunder who said he and Thompson had been stabbed by Soldano. Thompson was near the door of Soldano’s vehicle. Tim Thompson was dazed and holding himself next to the vehicle and Soldano was not there.
Thompson said, “I’m ok, I’m ok that guy stabbed me. I ran inside and called 911. I helped Tim up to the porch Zach and Addy applied pressure until the first responder came.”
Joe Pit was the first to arrive. People begin arriving after that because this is a small community and everyone has scanners. It took approximately 35 minutes for Cal Fire to arrive but had to wait for the scene to be cleared.
When people started showing up somebody by the name of Pony decided to slash the front tires of Soldano’s truck.
ZACH WILLIAMS GILLESPIE, WITNESS
Zach Williams Gillespie is a volunteer bartender. During Karaoke Devan Mahoney was singing when Soldano walked up and jabbed him with two fingers into the ribs.”I asked Soldano to leave. Soldano left quietly without any resistance. Shortly later Soldano came back into the bar looking for his keys, cellphone and 49er Jacket. No one found them.”
At 0140 hours, Soldano was allowed to come in to look through the bar for his keys. Soldano didn’t find them. The bar closed.
Zach states he never saw or heard an altercation. Once the Stabbing had taken place people begin to show up. The first one to arrive was Joe Pitt. Someone came around yelling for white people to come help, “I’m being chased by crazy Indians.”
Zach stated at no time were Buc Scott and Thunder asked to assist in removing Saldano from the bar.
DEPUTY SHERIFF INVESTIGATOR, SGT. RICHARD GRIFFIN
Investigator Griffin would testify of two conversations that were recorded by the Del Norte County Jail where Mr. Soldano would state the following;
“I took out three men half my age. They were attacking me and trying to steal my truck. I celled with a black man so it would look like I was not racist. “
Investigator Griffin confirmed it was Soldano’s voice because he listened to several videos with Soldano in them talking, and his voice matched the voice of the Jail recordings along with the pin number that was given to him to place phone calls.
GORDON NICKOLES, CHARACTER WITNESS
Mr. Nickoles would testify that he received a phone call around 0200 hours where a message was left by Soldano stating, “SOMEONE IS TRYING TO TAKE MY TRUCK… HELP ME! HELP ME!, COME AND HELP ME! THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE MY TRUCK.” Nicholes described Soldano sounding very distraught and in distress. Nickoles did not know Soldano had been arrested until one week after the arrest.
Prosecuting Attorney, Drossel made the following statements to Mr. Nickoles; “You have known Mr. Soldano for 4 years. You believe he has good character. Are you aware of his past criminal record? Petty theft, giving false information to the police, assault with a deadly weapon, felony assault with a weapon, corporal punishment on a spouse, and drunk in public.”
Drossel asked Nickoles if any of those things would change his mind about Soldano. Nickoles replied, “I have not seen those things. I have not seen him so drunk that he stumbles or slurs and Soldano does not have a racist attitude.”
Drossel then asked, “Did you witness someone trying to steal Soldanos truck at one time?”
Nickoles stated, “Yes.” Nickoles goes on to state it was a man who was approximately 5’5” approximately 21 years of age and an American Native. The Police were called but no charges were filed because Soldano had come out and stopped him from trying to steal the truck.
Nickoles’ work background was a master sergeant for Skyler Security where he retired with a disability in 2013/2014.
LESA MANKA LAST WITNESS FOR PRELIMINARY WHERE DEFENSE REST
Lesa Manka would testify she has known Soldano for 3 years. She said Soldano had a genuine interest in the Native Culture and never observed prejudice towards natives. Ms. Manka stated she was part native herself. Ms. Manka stated she thought highly of Soldano. Ms. Manka stated she heard the telephonic messages left by Soldano where he sounded distressed and fearful.
Prosecutor Drossel asked her if she knew about Soldano’s past criminal history and proceeded to read off the various charges that Soldano has acquired. Ms. Manka stated she did not believe Soldano was racist. After Ms. Manka’s testimony the Defense rests.
This ends the preliminary hearing. The trial begins September 9, 2017; more witnesses will be called. The problem with the testimony is the story is missing, the evidence does not add up with the testimony from parolee Thunder who swore under oath. The Natives are angry whispering “he’s a white guy and will get off.” Unfortunately, when people show up with guns and surround an alleged suspect and commence to beat him instead of allowing justice to work, they are no different than him. A loss of life occurred needlessly.
Drugs, alcohol, and then murder. It appears racism was demonstrated on both sides.