By: Tina Sampay
HSU Alumni (2016) Journalism/Race and Gender Theory major/minor
Originally published: www.SlausonGirl.com
Today Lila Ortega, the girlfriend of Kyle Zoellner along with her friends Naiya Wilkins and Casey Gleaton, were called to testify in the preliminary hearing for murder suspect Kyle Zoellner.
23-year old Zoellner is currently being held in Eureka jail on a $1 million dollar bail for the murder of 19-year old Humboldt State University student David Lawson. Lawson was stabbed to death at an off campus party Easter weekend.
The first witness called was Kyle's girlfriend, Lila. Lila is a key person within all of this because she is the reason this whole situation was started. Lila and three of her friends decided to go to a party and while there, she lost her phone. Lila calls Kyle to come pick her and her friends up and he arrived around 1:45 a.m.
It was very interesting to see Lila and two of her friends under cross examination due to a few key facts that were revealed.
According to Lila, she lost her iPhone and called Kyle to come pick her up. When Kyle pulled into the cul-de-sac type driveway and parked, Lila runs and hugs him. Lila, Kyle and Lila’s three friends approached the house in search of Leila’s phone. When they reached the porch, they asked the two to three African American males if they had seen Lila’s phone.
The males on the porch immediately got defensive and “really aggressive” and asked if they were accusing them of taking her phone. One of the males on the porch then punched Lila in the face.
Lila was dazed from the hit and when she came to, her friend Angelica was grabbing her saying they should go. Kyle was on the floor looking for his keys and phone and doesn't recover them. Then a group of about 30 guys came out the house and about 15 surrounded Kyle and started to beat him up. At some point Kyle got knocked out with a wild punch to the head. Lila then got on top of Kyle to protect him and as a result was beat up as well. Lila says that she never saw that anyone had been stabbed or the knife.
Lila’s now estranged friend Casey Gleaton, took the stand next.
A lot of Casey’s testimony did corroborate with Lila’s but there were some contradictions that I did catch.
-Lila testified that she kept her phone in her pocket - Casey says she had a shoulder strap purse that night.
-Lila testified that she never said that she hoped someone died - Casey said that because Lila was upset and thought the person who was stabbed had took her phone, Lila did say she hoped they died.
-Casey was asked if she heard Lila say "I hope that nigger dies" and Casey replied: “People say a lot of weird stuff when they're drunk. I told Lila if she didn't stop, I would smack her.”
-Lila said she was randomly punched in the face by a guy on the porch - Casey says she never saw this.
Under cross examination of Lila and Casey, it came out that Kyle is a chef at a catering company and he keeps a bag of chef knives for work--some Japanese knives with German handles.
Lila said that she never touched this bag of knives and when she arrived home the next morning from the hospital (where Kyle was before he was taken to jail) she accidently bumped into the knives in a bag on the floor on her way to the kitchen.
Casey says that Angelica’s mother was called to the scene. Eric Zoellner, Kyle’s father, also arrived to the scene after the stabbing.
Angelica's mother drove Kyle’s car back to the apartment that Kyle and Lila shared in Mckinleyville and also dropped Naiya off at her home in Eureka. Casey slept at Lila and Kyle's house that night and the next morning she threw up and waited for Lila to arrive.
Casey testified that when Lila arrived to the apartment that morning after coming from the hospital where Kyle was before he went to jail, Lila grabbed Kyle’s car keys, went to the car and grabbed a bag.
Casey said that Lila went across the room and opened a black and orange bag. Upon opening the bag, Lila said, “There is usually 4 knives in here, there are only 3 now.”
Lila had testified earlier that she had never touched the bag of knives.
Casey also revealed that she and Naiya did coke that night. Lila was known to drink excessively, pass out and lose clothes according to Casey.
Casey also revealed that when Lila realized she had lost her phone, she became pretty upset and “hysterical” to where she was crying and “getting loud.” Casey said this was because Lila kept spending a lot of money on phones and she had recently spent a lot to get the misplaced Iphone 7.
Casey said when Kyle arrived to the scene, Lila ran to him “looking for support.” Kyle “jumped out of the car” upon arrival, mad that Lila’s phone was lost.
Casey also said that Kyle was “jumping around trying to find his things” before getting out of the car but it was hard for her to see what he was doing because it was dark.
Casey also says that she saw Josiah and that he was in front of her and she heard someone say, “you’re leaking bro.” Casey said that Josiah looked as though he was dripping "car coolant.”
Lila says that she never saw Josiah that night.
Naiya pretty much corroborated fully with Lila's testimony but she agreed with Casey that Lila was hysterical and distraught over her phone.
She also said that her friend Angelica pepper-sprayed some guys who were fighting Kyle and she took the pepper-spray from Angelica and sprayed them some more.
5:00 p.m was closely approaching while Naiya was testifying, so court will resume tomorrow morning.
The fact that Zoellner had a bag with multiple knives in the car, with one missing knife, is explosive and gives a whole new perspective to the “wrong man” claims.
The preliminary hearings will proceed tomorrow at 9:15 a.m.
*Pictured above is Kyle Zoellner in pictures provided by the family to our local news station