23-year-old Zoellner is currently held in the Eureka jail on $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, Leila. Leila and three of her friends decided to go to a party and while there, she lost her phone. Leila calls Kyle to come pick her and her friends up and he arrived around 1:45 a.m.
It was very interesting to see Leila and two of her friends under cross-examination due to a few key facts that were revealed.
According to Leila, she lost her Iphone and called Zoellner to come pick her up. When Kyle pulled into the cul-de-sac type driveway and parked, she testified that she runs and hugs him. Leila and Zoellner and Leila’s three friends approached the house in search of her missing phone. When they reached the porch they asked two to three African-American males if they had seen Leila’s phone.
The males on the porch immediately got defensive and “really aggressive” asking them if they were accusing them of taking her phone. And according to Leila, one of the males on the porch punched her in the face.
Leila 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 but 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. Leila then got on top of Kyle to protect him and as a result received part of the beating. Leila says that she never saw that anyone had been stabbed or the knife.
Leila’s now estranged friend Casey Gleaton took the stand next.
A lot of Casey’s testimony did corroborate with Leila’s but there were some contradictions that I did catch.
Leila testified that she kept her phone in her pocket but Casey says she had a shoulder strap purse that night.
Leila testified that she never said that she hoped someone died but Casey said that because Leila was so upset and thought the person who was stabbed had taken her phone Leila did say she hoped they died.
Casey was asked if she heard Leila say anything derogatory such as “I hope that Nigger dies. Casey replied: “People say a lot of weird stuff when they are drunk. I told Leila if she didn’t stop, I would smack her.”
Leila said she was randomly punched in the face by a guy on the porch but Casey says she never saw this.
Under cross-examination of Leila and Casey, it was revealed that Kyle is a chef at a catering company and he keeps a bag of knives for work; Japanese knives with German handles.
Leila 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 accidentally bumped into the knives in a bag on the floor on her way to the kitchen.
Casey says that Angelica’s mother came to the scene. Eric Zoellner, Kyle’s father, also arrived as well.
Angelica’s mother drove Kyle’s car with Casey in it, back to the apartment that Kyle and Leila shared in McKinleyville and also dropped Naiya off in Eureka where she lived. Casey slept there that night and the next morning she threw up and waited for Leila to arrive.
Casey testified that when Leila arrived to the apartment that morning, she grabbed Kyle’s car keys, went to the car and grabbed a bag. Casey said that Leila had went across the room and opened a black and orange bag. Upon opening the bag, Leila said, “There are usually 4 knives in here, there are only 3 now.”
Leila had testified earlier that she had never touched the bag of knives.
Casey also revealed that she and Naiya did coke that night. Leila was known to drink excessively, pass out and lose clothes according to Casey.
Casey also revealed that when Leila 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 Leila 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, Leila 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 that night. 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.” Which made everyone is the courtroom gasp yet Leila says that she never saw Josiah that night.
Naiya pretty much corroborated fully with Leila’s testimony but she agreed with Casey that Leila 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.