The Kelisha Alvarez prelim finally got underway last week. It had been dropped until the witness against Kelisha could be located to testify.
Kelisha, the legendary Ukiah street person, had done Aleshia Tuttle wrong, and Aleshia was downstairs in a holding cell waiting to testify against her sister of the streets.
The corrections officers rolled Ms. Tuttle to the witness stand in her wheelchair. Aleshia's lawyer, Al Kubanis, sat with her to advise her on the perilously delicate business of testifying against someone you share the streets with. Both Aleshia and Kelisha are homeless. Aleshia will be called a snitch now, but that won’t change anything: the creeps on the street will bully and rob her, either way. The pretense that there’s some code of decency involved in not being a snitch is a joke — but it’s not so funny when the bully is standing in front of the judge.
Ms. Tuttle has her own lengthy rap-sheet of petty thefts; she’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia; she’s paralyzed on one side of her hip and leg, and she does drugs — she has even gotten high with Kelisha a few times she said, but didn’t like it “because Kelisha always gets out of control.”
On February 12th Aleshia Tuttle had gotten out of the wheelchair and was lying either inattentive or under the influence on a blanket out in front of The Little Brown Bear toy store on South Orchard Avenue when Kelisha Alvarez came by and stole Aleshia's pack containing a bag of personal items including Aleshia's wallet, which had been hanging on the handlebars of her wheelchair.
“Did you see Kelisha do it?” Deputy DA Elizabeth Norman asked.
“Out of the periphery of my vision, yes.”
“Do you know Kelisha?”
“I didn’t know that was her name, but I had gotten high with her a few times and knew Scotty Willis was her boyfriend.”
“Do you see her in court today?”
“That’s Ms. Willis right there in the orange jumpsuit.”
“My name’s not Willis,” Kelisha shrieked triumphantly.
She apparently thought she’d won the case because Ms. Tuttle got her name wrong. Kelisha's lawyer, Macci Baldock, hushed Kelisha up.
For years, Kelisha had been a client of the Alternate Public Defender, but after Bert Schlosser died, Patricia Littlefield took over that office and used the opportunity of a change in command to fob off some of the more onerous clients on rookie lawyers like Ms. Baldock.
Deputy DA Norman asked Aleshia, “Did she threaten you?”
“Mentally, she did.”
“What do you mean?”
“She attacked me mentally in society.”
“How did she do that?”
“She growled and grunted like a bear.”
“And that made you afraid?”
“What was in your pack?”
“My cigarettes and lighter, some food, a bottle of water, a t-shirt.”
“Did Kelisha physically touch you, at all?”
“Did the police come back and show you what they found?”
“Yes, about half my things. No cigarettes or lighter, no food, no money, and only my t-shirt was left.”
On cross, Ms. Baldock asked, “Did Kelisha say anything to you?”
“She grunted and growled is all.”
“And how did you take that?”
“I took it as, ‘You better just lay there and play dead to protect yourself’.”
Short of a .44 magnum, this is indeed the best protection against bear attack, and Kelisha is the size of a teenage Griz and probably quicker and stronger than a young bear.
“You were familiar with her from before?”
“Yes, I’ve done drugs with her and she gets violent when she does, she gets out of control. And when she started growling I knew she was gonna get what she wanted, no matter what.”
“Were you under the influence of drugs that day?”
“You’ve had some issues with stealing in the past, and on April 12th at Appleby’s…”
Judge Moorman stopped Baldock in mid-sentence and admonished her for asking about an open case. Baldock had nothing further to say for defendant Kelisha.
Officer Kevin Murray of the Ukiah Police Department was called. He responded to Aleshia Tuttle’s call. Ms. Tuttle described the defendant — who’s name she didn’t know — as a woman over 300 pounds with short red hair and a red beard. Officer Murray may have stifled a despairing groan when realized that Kelisha Alvarez who had been exiled to Okahoma in a plea deal — was back in town.
Murray found Kelisha a short distance away, at the Chevron station on the corner of Perkins and Orchard. She was eating the last purloined cookie, and washing it down with Aleshia's water. The stolen pack was in a nearby trashcan. The rifled wallet had a single penny left in it.
Norman asked the officer, “Did you ask Ms. Alvarez what she’d been doing?”
“Yes, she said she’d been on the bridge with Scotty and went to get him some soup.”
“Did she have any money?”
“No, but she said she knew where to get some, so she was looking for ‘a friend’ to get money for the soup.”
Officer Brett Chapman was called. He had subsequently taken Kelisha to jail, and was filling out the booking paperwork while she was being searched. The six dollars missing from Tuttle’s wallet was found in Kelisha’s shoe. But the search failed to locate a meth pipe and lighter which Kelisha had hidden under a roll of flesh and had lit up as soon as she was put in a holding cell.
Ms. Baldock, speaking for Kelisha, thought the trifling worth of the goods stolen amounted to only petty theft, and that the witness had some credibility issues, but Deputy DA Norman said that wasn’t the point: It was a felony robbery because fear and the threat of violence had been used to take the pack.
Judge Moorman found the testimony credible, even though there were some inconsistencies, because Aleshia Tuttle knew Kelisha Alvarez was dangerous from past experience with her, and that her growling was definitely threatening. Kelisha was also found in violation of her probation, and the crime was committed while she was out on her own recognizance — unfortunately, she’s not a flight risk. (Oh, don’t we just wish!).