Cell phone activity scrutinized in Carlsbad mom’s murder retrial

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VISTA, Calif. -- The prosecution has rested in the re-trial of Julie Harper.  She's the Carlsbad mom accused of shooting and killing her husband,

On Wednesday jurors were given a close up look at what prosecutors call the "get-away bag."  The blue Jansport backpack was found in the attic of Harper's father, John Cihak's garage.  Some of the items included jewelry, passports, the last will and testament of Jason an Julie Harper and an unloaded .32 caliber gun.  Investigators have determined the gun was not the weapon that fired the bullet that killed Jason Harper.

Prosecutors said the backpack also contained some $39,000, but by the time police discovered the bag, the money was gone.  Attorney Paul Pfingst has contended the money was taken for Harper's bail and a receipt was issued, but investigators said no receipt was ever found.

Also found in the backpack were both of Jason Harper's phones with the batteries taken out.

FBI Agent Victor Nguyen analyzed the phones of the Harpers and Cihak.  He said the last activity on Jason's phone was a text message sent to his brother Brian at 11:46 a.m. on August 7th.  The message said "Tell Mom running errands, Julie has kids, see her Friday."   Prosecutors argue it was Julie who sent it, shortly after she shot Jason.

Nguyen said that morning Julie made a number of phone calls to her father, but there was no indication if the two actually spoke.  He pointed out a large gap of no activity on her phone between 2:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.  Prosecutors said the gap indicates she turned off her phone on purpose.

"Is that consistent with the fact of Julie Harper's phone being off or not being able to be mapped at those times," said Deputy District Attorney Clayton Carr.

"Yes," said Victor Nguyen.

Prosecutors also said the fact batteries were taken out of Jason's two cell phones also supports the theory Julie did not want to be tracked.

Defense Attorney Paul Pfingst argued Julie's phone wasn't off and she was in an area with no cell signal.

Wednesday also began testimony from the defense.  Crime scene expert Ron Martinelli was called to the stand.  Pfingst has maintained Harper accidentally shot her husband in self defense, because she feared for her life during an argument.

Martinelli said when a person experiences fear or threat, it triggers an adrenalin dump.

"You can't control that adrenalin dump, because that happens so quickly, it happens in a millisecond," said Martinelli.

He said within that millisecond, physiological changes further influence response and sometimes the body can take over the brain.

"What would enhance it would be someone who’s already scared, someone that’s already experiencing a life threat or it’s starting to gradually build," said Martinelli.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe argued it wasn't accident.  He showed Harper's resume which lists military training and weapons handling.

"So she was well aware of how to handle a gun, is that correct," asked Watanabe.

"Well, yes, but it also depends on the circumstances," said Martinelli.

Watanabe also pointed out on a Derringer .38, the suspected weapon in this case also had a safety.

"So, she would have physically had to disengage the safety to shoot it, right?" asked Watanabe.

"Yes, that's correct," said Martinelli.

Defense testimony is expected to continue on Tuesday, court is recessed until then because the judge is on vacation.  Julie Harper, herself is expected to testify when court resumes.  If convicted, she could face 40 years to life.


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