Three current and former California Highway Patrol officers, a prominent criminal defense lawyer and five other people were arrested Friday in connection with the disappearance and killing of a California man.
Law enforcement officials announced the arrests at a brief news conference in Modesto, California. The nine people played a part in the killing of Korey Kauffman, 26, or helped cover it up and mislead investigators, the officials said.
Kauffman was reported missing in April 2012. His body was found by hunters in August 2013 in rural Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park.
Investigators with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said Modesto attorney Frank Carson orchestrated the killing and enlisted the help of two brothers — Daljit and Baljit Atwal — who own a liquor store in Turlock.
Investigators say Carson believed Kauffman and others were stealing valuable antiques from storage containers on his property and that he wanted to stop the thefts by sending a message.
Kauffman was on his way to steal from Carson when he disappeared, according to a 326-page court filing police used to get arrest warrants.
Carson's attorney, Percy Martinez, said his client is innocent and his arrest was politically motivated.
Carson ran unsuccessfully for district attorney last year. He has been under investigation since Kauffman disappeared, Martinez said. Investigators searched Carson's property in 2012.
"We welcome the opportunity to fight this in court," Martinez said.
The CHP officers were all associated with the brothers and the Turlock liquor store.
CHP officers Scott McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar are suspected of obstructing the investigation. They are accused of lying about their involvement with the liquor store and the two brothers who own it.
Investigators say Quintanar told one of the brothers to tell another suspect to check under his car for police tracking devices.
Former CHP Officer Walter Wells is suspected of murder.
"The entire department and I are appalled at the mere thought that one former and two current employees played any role in this incident," CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said.
Wells left the CHP several weeks ago and the other two officers have been placed on administrative leave, Farrow said.
Carson's wife, Georgia Geanette Defilippo, is also accused of participating in the killing. Defilippo's daughter was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and being an accessory.
Robert Woody was the only person originally charged in Kauffman's death.
All of the suspects remained jailed Friday.