Kyle Zoellner was the suspect accused in the stabbing death of 19-year old Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson. After five days of preliminary hearings, Zoellner was released due to a lack of physical evidence. Below are the eyewitness accounts of each person called to testify during the hearings.
Monday, May 1st, 2017
Day One of Preliminary Hearings
Lila Ortega (Kyle Zoellner’s girlfriend)
Casey Gleaton (Estranged friend of Lila Ortega, accompanied Ortega to the party)
Naiya wilkin (Friend of Lila Ortega, accompanied her to the party)
CR student studying business. Zoellner’s girlfriend for 4 and a half years, living together for 3 years. Does not hang out with people from HSU much. Parties in Humboldt twice a month. Somewhat recalls the events of April 14th. Earlier in the day she was hanging with Casey, Jade, Haley and they went to the beach. That evening she had dinner with Zoellner and they went to Costco. Left the house to go to the party around 10:00 p.m and they went to the plaza to pick up Naiya. Heard about the party about 9:00 p.m. Zoellner doesn’t drive or go out. Girls drank before going to plaza. Only the four girls go to the party Zoellner goes home and is their DD. They arrived at the party and no one was out front. Party was in the house, garage and backyard. About 100 people at party. The four girls stuck together using the “buddy system.”
The group spent most of their time in the garage near the beer pong table and talked to people making friends. Lila looked in her pocket and realized that she couldn’t find her phone. Said she kept her phone in her jacket pocket. Asked people had they seen her phone and people replied no. Around 1:30 a.m she called Kyle Zoellner. Zoellner arrives and pulls in the driveway. Ran to the car because she was excited to see him. Talked about missing cellphone when she called him to pick them up. Told Zoellner she “misplaced it or someone took it.” Zoellner replied, “oh well we’ll get you a new phone if you can’t find it.” When he arrived he wanted to ask people about the missing phone. When he asked people he was very polite.
Approached house, saw two males who looked like athletes came out. Asked if they saw gold iphone. Guys got mad, aggressive. Asked, “are you accusing us of stealing your phone?” one of the males then punched her in the face; closed fist & elbowed in the face. Lost memory for a minute or two. When she came to, she was kind of standing, unsteady on feet. Zoellner was on the floor looking for his phone and keys. One of her friends then said let’s go. Ppl then came out of the house and started “beating us up.” 30 ppl came out of the house. 15 people surround Zoellner, “few girls came after us.” Was getting beat up. Zoellner on floor, people kicking him in the face. He wasn’t moving, in a fetal position.
Then she was attacked. She got beat up by Josiah’s girlfriend. Was shown photo of her, that’s how she knew who she was. After the beating, she got up, ran to Zoellner’s body, laid on top of him and told people to stop hitting him, the group of 15 males. She was fighting Josiah’s girlfriend for 10 minutes. Angelica limping out to street on phone.
Didn’t see anyone use pepper spray. After Kyle was in police car, rubbed eyes and they stung, didn’t know why. Wth Zoellner until officers came. Didn’t hear anyone say anything about pepper spray or a knife, never saw one. Heard someone say I’m going inside to grab my pistol.
Zoellner is unconscious when an officer “yanked him up.” Zoellner asked, “what’s going on?” Moments later a woman came out the house and said someone just got stabbed, we need an ambulance.
During fight with Josiah’s girlfriend stated it was punches and pulling hair (no elbows, biting, etc). 5 mins they were fighting alone, then Naiya comes and pulls hair for 5 more minutes, until they all agree to let go.
Was at the party 3 hours.
Officers were telling people to leave (while Zoellner is in the car) 50+ ppl left. Kyles car keys were handed to Lila by Casey.
Went to St. Joseph hospital with Kyle Zoellner’s father. At hospital for three hours. Got home, Casey was there awake. Lila started crying with Kyle Zoellner’s father.
Was asked about Kyle Zoellners bag of chef knives used for his job as a chef.
Said it was on the floor by his music stuff. Does not recall opening it up. Don’t recall seeing one of the knives missing. Said they were Japanese Knives with German handle. Doesn’t know how many were in the case. Doesn’t recall saying “I hope that ni*** dies.” Hair was now black, was blue at party. Did not ask two men to empty their pockets. Kyle doesn’t carry pocket knives. “Hit knife bag on accident bumped it and it hit the floor, panicked.”
Casey Gleaton (Estranged friend of Lila Ortega, accompanied Ortega to the party)
Went to the beach earlier in the day with Lila and the other girls, had been a while since they hung out. Caught bus to Lila’s house later in the evening. Didn’t eat all day. Beginning of night kind of fuzzy. Lila had found a couple different parties to go to. Went to party on Arcata plaza to “see if it was popping” but they left because it was kind of boring, was just a small group of friends chilling. Left to party around 8:00 in the evening. Naiya Wilkins was picked up by the group from the Plaza or transit station. Went to party on Spear Ave, and it didn’t look that popping when they pulled up. Had to bang on the door to be let in. Got more drunk, realized there was a dance floor. Started conversations with anyone who would talk. Said she did coke provided by Naiya. Lila called Zoellner around 2:30 a.m 1st call, said she was ready to leave. Made call on dance floor. Lila put her phone in shoulder strap purse. Danced a few more minutes, guy was grinding on Lila. Casey stopped them from dancing and suggested that they go outside. Realized phone was missing. Lila used Casey’s phone. Called Lila’s phone it would ring at first and then go straight to voicemail. Lila got hysterical because she kept spending a lot of money on phones. She was crying and getting loud. They stood around for 10 minutes waiting for Zoellner. Lila still pretty upset when Kyle comes back and walks to him crying, looking for support. Zoellner Jumped out mad that Lila’s phone was missing. Zoellner was jumping around trying to find his things before getting out of the car but it was too dark for her to see what he was doing. Only saw keys in his hand when he got out the car. Might have handed keys to Lila. Zoellner wanted to ask people about Lila’s missing phone. First people he saw was 2-3 african american males on the porch. Zoellner asked did you see or did you take a phone. Males got defensive. Zoellner replied that he was just asking a question. Zoellner gets hit and was getting beat up for several minutes. Kyle didn’t fall on ground, started to fight back to get them off. Angelica was standing by a car, kinda saw someone hit Lila, a girl. Group of Black men then walk away. Josiah’s girlfriend runs up and says, “did you pepperspray my boyfriend you bitch?” Didn’t see Lila in a fight until girl asked about pepper spray. Guys run up and fight breaks out.
Did not see a man punch Lila in her face, she was having a one on one fight with a girl. 10-15 dudes came out the house and 5-6 ganged up on Zoellner. Zoellner gets knocked out. Someone threw a crazy punch and he dropped to the ground. Looked like he had gotten “knocked the fuck out.” Lila hopped on top of Kyle. Hispanic girl smacked Lila a few times. Heard someone say, “that bitch pepper sprayed me.” She was too distracted trying to understand what was going on. Saw no knife. She saw Josiah. She was standing next to the red car. Heard, “you’re leaking bro.” Saw Josiah hunched over and saw him “fall on his back and then flip over on all fours.” There was a crowd around and they all moved back to give Josiah room. Said she was about six feet in front of Josiah when he went down and he looked like he was leaking car coolant. She started to move away from party. Gave Angelica her phone and told her to call the police. Lila crying pretty hard because she was scared for Kyle and said I hope that guy dies. Was asked if she heard Lila say “I hope that N** dies” she replied, “people say some pretty weird things when they are very upset.” Told Lila she might slap her if she didn’t shut up. Lila was pretty upset.
Casey found Zoellner’s car keys and phone and brought it to Lila. She was told Kyle was in the police car. Lila was at the cop window saying, “I love you, I know you. They think you did this but I don’t recall you doing that.” Heard someone say let me go get my piece, or gun, “filtered into her ear.” Laid in Zoellner’s car in the backseat. Angelica’s mom came, drove the girls home, spent the night at Lila’s house.
Next morning Lila and Zoellner’s father arrived to the apartment. Lila grabbed Zoellner’s car keys and brought a black and orange bag back inside. Lila cried, “there are usually four knives in here now it’s only three.” It was Kyle’s “work bag.” Lila seemed pretty upset and started crying. Bag was in car when they drove to the party. Said she had stopped talking to Lila because she, “needed a break.”
Naiya Wilkin (Friend of Lila Ortega, accompanied her to the party)
Works at Shamus T-Bones. Not a HSU student.
Zoellner came to help Lila look for her missing cellphone. They had looked for it for about 15 minutes.
He asked the first group he saw of 3 African American males. Naiya was behind Lila who was to the side of Zoellner who said, “let us know if you see an Iphone, my girl lost her phone.” Males respond leave us alone we are not having a good night. Zoellner responded that he was just asking. Lila said you don’t have to be aggressive. A yelling match ensued, then someone pushed then punched Kyle. Naiya is on the ground with Kyle trying to wake him up for about a minute. See men then walk back towards Zoellner. 6-7 men surround Zoellner and start kicking him. Zoellner wasn’t responsive.
Saw a man punch Lila. Female came out of nowhere and started fighting with Lila. Kyle was on the grass in the fetal position. They got beat up trying to help/ protect Zoellner. Angelica pepper sprayed those who hit Lila and Zoellner. Naiya grabbed the pepper spray from Angelica and sprayed it again on the same people.
While Lila and her lay on top of Zoellner’s body, she heard someone had gotten stabbed.
Quentin tried to help Zoellner up and as he walked a few steps with Zoellner, someone came out of nowhere and attempted to punch Zoellner; before they could connect the punch, Zoellner’s body just dropped to the ground.
Police arrived on the scene.
Only saw blood on Zoellner’s collar that was dripping from his face. Did not walk with Zoellner to cop car, met with other girls at the end of the cul de sac. Gave statements to cop at that location, then went to cop car. Left in Angelica dad’s car. Left around 5:00 a.m went home to Eureka. Didn’t see any of the girls go back to look for anything or others make phone calls.
Cops were telling people to leave. Spoken with police about six times. One cop came to her job and said she needed to prove that she didn’t have a knife in the fanny pack she had on that night. Death threat on phone, gave cops that. Testified that she did not bite anyone. Said she did coke that night with Casey Gleaton.
Left in Angelica dad’s car. Angelicas mom moved Zoellner’s car from crime scene.