Palo Alto Man Gets 33 Years in Girlfriend's Murder-Arson Case

"I did not kill Jennifer!" Zumot yelled in a wild outburst after the judge sentenced him.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    The case involving the owner of Da Hookah Spot on University Avenue began two years ago.

    Bulos 'Paul' Zumot, a Palo Alto hookah bar owner convicted of strangling his girlfriend and setting her body on fire two years ago, was sentenced Friday to 33 years in state prison.

    Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena handed down the sentence eight months after a jury convicted Zumot of first-degree murder and arson in the Oct. 15, 2009 death of 29-year-old real estate agent Jennifer Schipsi.

    Minutes before he was sentenced, Zumot shouted over and over "I'm innocent" and made every effort to convince a packed courtroom that he did not do it.

    When Judge David Cena finally handed down the sentence around 3 p.m., Zumot could not bear to sit through it.

    "I did not kill Jennifer! I am innocent and I refuse to be here," Zumot yelled, interrupting a speech by Schipsi's father, Jim, who carried onreading from his letter and raised his voice over Zumot's into a microphone that a bailiff handed him.

    The two men got into a brief shouting match and at one point Jim Schipsi called Zumot a "monster" and Zumot retorted, "You're the monster."

    "Shame on all of you," Zumot yelled as bailiffs escorted him out of the courtroom per his own request following a 20-minute outburst that moved many of Schipsi's family and friends to tears and shocked mostly everyone in the courtroom, including Cena.

    Zumot and his mother, who was also thrown out for speaking out, refused to return for the sentencing.

    The sentencing of Zumot, the 38-year-old owner of Da Hookah Spot on University Avenue, was the culmination of a case that began two years ago at a cottage on Addison Avenue in Palo Alto.

    That's where prosecutors said Zumot killed Schipsi and then set their home on fire with her body inside to hide the evidence.

    Prosecutor Charles Gillingham relied heavily on circumstantial evidence, such as text message exchanges, to show that Zumot was emotionally and physically abusive toward Schipsi.

    Zumot's high-profile attorney Mark Geragos, who was not present today, attempted throughout the four-and-a-half-week trial to discredit many key aspects of the prosecution's case, including the detection of accelerant on Zumot's clothes by a trained dog named Rosie, a fight between the couple on the night before Schipsi's death, and cell phone data.

    Zumot was sentenced to eight years in prison for arson and 25 years for murder with parole.

    Bay City News contributed to this report.