Editor’s note: This story contains sensitive language.
SAN DIEGO — It’s been one week since the preliminary hearing for Larry Millete has begun. Three witnesses took the stand Wednesday. At the end of day 5, Judge Dwayne Moring has heard from 11 of the 25 witnesses the prosecution plans to call.
Genesis Tabalanza was on the stand for more than a 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday. Jaypie Tabalanza, Maya Millete’s brother, and Maya’s former boss, Derek Sopp, also took the stand Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, one of the last people who talked to the missing Chula Vista mother took the stand: Maya’s former boss Derek Sopp, who she worked under at SWRMC.
Sopp, the chief of the contracting office, said he had heard about an alleged affair Maya and a “subordinate” were having. He said he called them both into his office for an investigation in February 2020 and seemed to clear it up and later called them “accusations.”
A timeline of the events leading up to and after her disappearance can be found here.
“She said she was calling to just give me a heads up that she was going to divorce Larry and she’d hired an attorney and that Larry had found out and she wanted to give me a heads up that he wanted to ruin her professionally, and she wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but she feared that it might involved dredging back up the incident from February 2020 with the allegations,” he said.
“He said he couldn’t let it go and he likes torturing people and cutting their balls off,” Jaypie Tabalanza, Maya’s brother said, referencing the alleged affair.
Sopp said shortly after February 2020, he received an email from Larry Millete, asking him to move another subordinate out of the ‘area’ Maya was working.
“Good afternoon Derek,
I would like to request to have Eric Cogan moved to another division if at all possible. I know it’s no easy task, but I’m trying to help May get her bearings back ad focused. I’ve always stayed away from her professional life, but she’s been going through a lot these couple of months and I think it would help her reset herself, and our relationship as well. It will be our 30th wedding anniversary this year on May and would like to have 20 plus more……..,” the email read in part.
Sopp said he did not respond and Larry sent another email asking for the same request.
Sopp responded to the second email saying “Larry, I know you two are working through thing right now and that the false accusations made last week didn’t help any, but directing a personnel move based on a person’s gender, coupled with unfounded suspicion, is not a reasonable solution. Eric hasn’t done anything wrong, so it wouldn’t be fair to Eric…..”
Larry responded the same day saying in part, “You’re absolutely right. Trying to convince May to take a little RR….,” the email said in part.
Sopp testified that Maya had confided in him telling him that Larry made Maya have her phone location on so he could track her, and he had access to her social media passwords and the banking accounts.
Sopp said in mid-2020, Maya wanted to move to a new facility, NIWC, and Sopp had tried to convince her to stay by offering her another position within SWRMC, but she ended up moving to the new facility.
Sopp said he briefly talked to Maya on Jan. 6, 2021, just one day before she had gone missing, when Maya called to let Sopp know that she was filing for divorce, had hired an attorney and Larry had found out. Sopp said she had called to let him know the alleged incident with an affair might come up again as she files for divorce. He said her voice sounded shaky.
Genesis Tabalanza, Maya’s friend and sister-in-law began the fifth day of the hearing on the stand. She testified that she learned about Maya and Larry’s marriage problems in January 2020 and referred them to a marriage counselor. Maya had told her Larry would get angry and punch holes in the walls, and then patch them up so no one could see them.
Genesis testified that Larry acted differently on Jan. 9, 2021, than he had in the past.
“He usually panics when he doesn’t know where May is, but this time he was just calm, quiet,” she said.
“Gen I really trust you, just don’t do anything stupid,” Larry allegedly said to Genesis on a phone call, more than a month after May went missing. She wasn’t sure what this meant.
Prior to Maya’s disappearance, Genesis said she was also part of a conversation inside Maricris’ trailer in Glamis on New Year’s Day in 2021, when Genesis said, Maya said, “After Lara’s birthday party I’m going to file for a divorce, if Larry tries to call you don’t answer the phone call, if something happens to me, it’s going to be Larry.”
Maya lived with Genesis and her husband, Jay-R Tabalanza, between May and June 2020, during a brief separation from Larry. May later moved back into her and Larry’s Chula Vista home at the end of June 2020.
“She needed space because as time goes by that she’s away from Larry, it gives her a clear head, she wants to stop lying and doesn’t want the kids exposed to that,” Genesis Tabalanza said on the stand, recalling a conversation she had with Maya during the summer of 2020.
Genesis said for example, Larry didn’t allow the kids to eat in their cars, but Maya would let him, and then allegedly lie to Larry saying that it was Maya who ate in the car, in front of the kids, and Maya didn’t want the kids to see her lying to him.
“I don’t want to be treated this way,” Genesis said Maya had told her.
Genesis said while Maya was staying at their home, Larry would send dozens of text messages in a day checking on Maya, and in one day, he sent 199 text messages, many without her replying.
Genesis said Larry was suspicious of Maya having an affair in February 2020.
Genesis said Larry put Lara’s phone (Maya and Larry’s daughter) in Maya’s car so he could track her, and then he showed up in the parking lot at Maya’s work unannounced and saw her inside of a truck outside Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC). Genesis said Larry saw Jaime and Maya inside of the truck and approached the truck and asked Jaime what he was doing inside the truck with his wife. Later that night, Maya moved out of Genesis and Jay-R’s apartment on June 27, 2020. Allegedly Larry’s credentials, since he worked at Balboa Hospital, allowed him access to SWRMC.
On Aug.12, 2020, Larry texted Genesis that Maya left again saying, “She left because I put K Lara’s phone in her car to track her today.” Larry allegedly confessed to Maya that he put their daughter’s phone in the car to track her – and Maya got mad.
On Sept. 15, 2020, Larry texted Genesis about spellcasters, saying he was thinking about apprenticing under a spell caster because he was “desperate.”
“I just warned him that that’s evil spirit and you shouldn’t be messing with that he was just wanting so bad to be with may and fix their marriage problems,” Genesis testified.
Larry texted to Genesis, “I’m willing to sell my soul,” in regards to saving their marriage.
Larry had told Maya he would report her alleged affair to her work if she doesn’t want to save their marriage.
“My intent is for her to lose her job and I get 100% custody of the kids,” Larry texted Genesis in September 2020.
“I just want the kids,” Larry said in a text message, and also said he did not want another man around the kids.
“This is really stressful,” Larry said in a text message to Genesis. “She took off her ring again.”
“She found the subliminals and said I’m trying to cage her in an invisible cage,” Larry texted to Genesis. Genesis said Larry allegedly purchased a subliminal message machine that would send subliminal messages to Maya to keep her in love with Larry.
During the cross-examination from the defense with Genesis Tabalanza on the stand, the defense asked about a time when Maya was on the phone a lot during a vacation to Lake Elsinore, and Genesis had to take care of Lazarus, Maya and Larry’s son.
Genesis became emotional on the stand and said it felt like the defense attorney was torturing her. The court then took a brief recess and cross-examination restarted.