SJ Investigators Followed Their Nose To Find Crime Scene

Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010  |  Updated 8:36 AM PDT
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SJ Investigators Followed Their Nose To Find Crime Scene

Steve Lyon

The use of tasers has proven controversial for the SJPD, but the coroner has let them off the hook in this case.

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The preliminary hearing for a man accused of killing his  girlfriend and setting their bedroom on fire with her body inside is being held in Santa Clara County Superior Court with testimony from  police.

      Bulos "Paul" Zumot, 36, has pleaded not guilty to murder and arson  charges in connection with the death of his 29-year-old girlfriend, Jennifer  Schipsi, on Oct. 15, 2009.
     
A judge will determine during the hearing whether there is enough  evidence for the case against Zumot to proceed to trial.
     
Investigators determined that Schipsi, a real estate agent, had  been killed prior to the fire and that the blaze was set intentionally at the  home, located at 969 Addison Ave., to conceal evidence.
     
Police arrested Zumot four days later at Da Hookah Spot, a smoking  lounge he owns on University Avenue.
     
Zumot was denied bail and remains in custody. He faces a maximum  sentence of 33 years to life if convicted.
     
In her testimony today, lead crime scene investigator Nanelle  Newbom said that upon removing Schipsi's body the day after the fire, she  noticed a strong gas-like odor emanating from the bed where the body was  found.
   
She said she noticed the stove was still on and that she smelled  gas in Schipsi's hair and on a duvet on a couch in the living room.
     
Anjanette Holler, a detective in the Police Department's sexual  assault unit, testified that Schipsi's autopsy results indicated she was  strangled prior to the fire and that there was no smoke in her lungs.
     
Zumot and Schipsi had an "on again, off again" relationship but  had moved in together shortly before the fire, according to police. Court  records show that Schipsi requested an emergency restraining order against  Zumot in August after he allegedly threatened her.
     
Police Detective James Reifschneider said Fernando Alcoba, the  instructor of a domestic violence class in San Jose that Zumot was enrolled  in at the time of Schipsi's death, described the couple's relationship as  being "like a roller coaster."
     
He said that it had improved, however, in the months prior to  Schipsi's death, Reifschneider said.
     
Detective Holler said Schipsi's best friend was one of the last  people to have contact with her before she died.
     
The friend said Schipsi failed to show up to take him to a  doctor's appointment on Oct. 15, and his calls went directly to voicemail  that morning.
     
When he sent a text message, Schipsi's response was a duplicate of  a message from the previous night, Holler said.
     
Schipsi and Zumot appeared to have gotten into an altercation on  Oct. 14 following a birthday celebration for Zumot at Dishdash Restaurant in  Sunnyvale, according to police Capt. Scott Savage.
     
Zumot's business partner and former best friend, a Monterey County  sheriff's deputy named Joe Martinez, said Zumot sent him a text message on  Oct. 15 recounting the birthday party, according to Savage.
     
In one of the text messages, Zumot said he had told Schipsi to  shut up and that she had then walked home alone.
     
Later that day, he sent Martinez another text message saying he  had proposed to Schipsi, Savage said.
     
When Martinez spoke with Zumot on the phone later, he said Zumot  said there was a fire at his home and seemed panicked. He sounded scared and  concerned that he had not heard from Schipsi since that morning, according to  Savage.
     
Schipsi also alluded to an argument or fight on Oct. 14 in text  messages she sent to a mutual male friend who was invited to the birthday  party but did not show up, Savage said.
     
In one message, she said, "Someone can (sic) handle me sending  messages to you," followed by, "I just had my phone thrown at me."
     
Schipsi later spoke with that friend on the phone and told him  that after the party, she was in the car with Zumot and his brother and that  she left the car and walked the rest of the way home, Savage said.
     
The friend said he asked Schipsi why Zumot was upset with him the  next morning after repeatedly calling Zumot and not hearing from him.
     
Schipsi responded that Zumot was drunk.
     
The preliminary hearing will continue Tuesday.
 

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