Charges Against Jessie Slotte Doubted

According to his wife, Veronica, Boonville native Jessie Slotte, a heavily decorated veteran of the war in Iraq, threw her to the ground, put the boots to her, dragged her behind the car, then kidnapped the couple’s two children, one of them an infant. The family had attended what must have been a particularly stimulating rodeo in Potter Valley.

This was Veronica’s story anyway.

But at the preliminary hearing last week the judge didn’t buy it.

The beginning of the episode was especially hard to picture — Veronica said she got a text message on SnapChat from another man and Jessie flew into a jealous rage. She alleged that Slotte held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her (aipparently she was driving at the time), then he reached over and put his hand on the gas pedal and grabbed the steering wheel, making the car leave the road and crash through the bushes.

“I have a hard time with the mechanics of that,” Judge Ann Moorman said.

As for the rest of Veronica’s story, the throwing her down in the gravel, the kicking her in the ribs, the dragging her through the gravel — all that… There wasn’t a mark on her, not even a speck of dust, nor did she appear to be in any pain (only rage), according to the deputy who interviewed her at the scene.

Jessie Slotte

But something happened, and a BOLO (be on the lookout) went out for Jessie Slotte who was soon pulled over in Lake County with the baby in the car.

Mendo’s lead Domestic Violence prosecutor, Deputy DA Elizabeth Norman, has a duty to take seriously the word of women who say they’ve been abused, no matter how far-fetched the “mechanics” of the situation may seem. So after six months of failed negotiations between Deputy DA Norman and Slotte’s attorney Justin Petersen, Ms. Norman still would not reduce any of the five felony charges against Slotte, so the defense had no choice but to go forward with the preliminary hearing.

Ms. Norman called Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Dutra to the stand. Dutra was on duty May 27th when he pulled over the silver Honda SUV Jessie Slotte was driving. All Dutra knew was that Slotte was a domestic violence suspect, and that one of the children was in the car with him.

Justin Petersen on cross-examination: “How fast was he going when you first saw him?”

Deputy Dutra: “He was moving pretty quick.”

Petersen: “Can you give me an estimate?”

Dutra: “I couldn’t. He was going the other way, and I had to get turned around.”

Petersen: “Do you remember what his demeanor was?”

Dutra: “He was agitated and jumped out right away.”

Petersen: “What was his demeanor toward you?”

Dutra: “He was respectful.”

Petersen: “Was there a child inside the car?”

Dutra: “Yes.”

Petersen: “How old?”

Dutra: “A baby.”

Petersen: “Was the baby in a car seat?”

Dutra: “Yes.”

Petersen: “What was the demeanor of the baby — upset? Crying?”

Dutra: “It was asleep.”

Petersen: “Was the baby properly restrained?”

Dutra: “I believe it was.”

Petersen: “Were you led to believe there was a weapon involved?”

Dutra: “My dispatcher said there had been a threat with a knife so I searched for weapons.”

Petersen: “Find any?”

Dutra: “No.”

Petersen: “No knife? Not in the car or on my client?”

Dutra: “No.”

Petersen: “The car had some damage on the passenger side?”

Dutra: “Yes.”

Petersen: “Fair to say it only amounted to a small dent and some scratches?”

Dutra: “Yes.”

Petersen: “Wasn’t there a white paint transfer?”

Dutra: “I don’t recall.”

Petersen showed the deputy a black & white photo of the damaged car.

Dutra: “Yes, it looks like a white paint transfer.”

Petersen: “Did you receive any information about the car striking some mailboxes?”

Dutra: “Not that I recall.”

Petersen: “Notice anything about his [Slotte’s] person?”

Dutra: “He had some scratches on his forearm and bicep area.”

Petersen: “From an earlier incident in Potter Valley?”

Dutra: “Yes, that’s what he said.”

Petersen: “These scratches, were they consistent with fingernail scratches?”

Dutra: “They appeared to be, yes.”

Petersen: “Do you recall my client’s state of sobriety?”

Dutra: “I didn’t run any field sobriety tests, but he appeared to have had some.”

Petersen: “Did there appear to be any need for a field sobriety test?”

Dutra: “Not for my part.”

Petersen: “How long before Mendocino law enforcement showed up?”

Dutra: “Twenty minutes, maybe.”

Petersen: “He indicated to you — Mr. Slotte, that is — his side of the story was that his girlfriend tried to take the baby and he drove away?”

Dutra: “Correct.”

Petersen: “Did you ask about the scratches on his arm?”

Dutra: “He said it happened during the argument.”

Petersen: “Did you allow him to hold the baby while waiting?”

Dutra: “I allowed him to check on the baby, yes.”

Petersen: “Did he hand the baby over when somebody, Veronica, showed up?”

Dutra: “I don’t recall.”

Petersen: “Nothing further.”

Mendo Deputy Christian Denton was called: “I was dispatched to Eastside Potter Valley Road and saw a woman who was clearly distraught.”

Norman: “Did anyone interrupt your interview with her?”

Denton: “A gentleman kept interjecting comments, and it took a while before I could calm her down. And when she tried to make a statement, he [the ‘gentleman’] kept interrupting.”

Norman: “Did you finally get a statement from her?”

Denton: “Yes, she said the defendant Mr. Slotte had held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her.”

Norman: “Did you get her name?”

Denton: “Veronica Slotte.”

Norman: “What did she tell you about what had happened?”

Denton: “They had been to a rodeo in Potter Valley. They had been married and then separated and only got back together two days ago. As they were leaving the rodeo she got a phone message and Mr. Slotte thought it was from another man. He got angry and accused her of cheating. He grabbed the wheel and put his hand on the gas pedal and the car went off the road and through some bushes.”

Norman: “Who else was in the car — besides the two of them?”

Denton: “Two children, one a four-year-old, the other younger.”

Norman: “She said Mr. Slotte pulled out a knife and held it to her throat?”

Denton: “Yes, so she pulled off the road and exited the vehicle, he got out at the same time, threw her to the ground and kicked her in the side.”

Norman: “Then what?”

Denton: “She went to retrieve the children from the rear passenger door, and Mr. Slotte got in and took off driving. According to her, she was only half in and half out of the vehicle and her boots drug the ground.”

Norman: “What happened after that?”

Denton: “He ran into some mailboxes and she grabbed the older child and escaped.”

Norman: “She went to retrieve the children when he did this?”

Denton: “The four-year-old had scooted over to behind the driver’s seat and she had her feet sticking out.”

Norman: “What about the baby?”

Denton: “She was left in the car.”

Norman: “Did you interview any of the witnesses?”

Denton: “I did not. I spoke to the CHP officer who did.”

Norman: “Did Veronica complain of her injuries?”

Denton: “She did not.”

Norman: “Did you see any injuries to her person?”

Denton: “I did not.”

Norman: “Did she observe anything in Mr. Slotte’s driving pattern that would endanger the child?”

Denton: “Only the high rate of speed.”

Norman: “Did she feel it was safe for the child?”

Denton: “She did not.”

Norman: “Nothing further.”

Defense attorney Petersen: “Were there any injuries?”

Denton: “I didn’t see any, and she didn’t complain of any pain. Of course, I didn’t examine her.”

Petersen: “If he kicked her when she was down in the gravel, and they’d just come from a rodeo, wouldn’t you expect there to be some dust on her?”

Denton: “Yes.”

Petersen: “Was there any dust on her?”

Denton: “No, she was clean.”

Petersen: “Any indication she’d been thrown on the gravel?”

Denton: “No.”

Petersen: “Veronica said she went to the back passenger-side door to get the children out and he took off?”

Denton: “Yes.”

Petersen: “How far was this from the mailboxes?”

Denton: “It was a row of mailboxes and he was parked in front of them.”

Petersen: “Did you look at the area?

Denton: “I did.”

Petersen: “Could you tell where he may have been parked?”

Denton: “No. It’s well used, a lot of traffic in the area.”

Judge Moorman: “The claim is that the car the children were in hit the mailboxes?”

Petersen: “Yes, judge. [Turning back to Denton:] Were there any burn-out marks where my client supposedly took off and hit the mailboxes?”

Denton: “I didn’t see any.”

Petersen: “Any damage to the mailboxes?”

Denton: “None that I could see.”

Petersen: “Were these the kind of light-weight metal mailboxes you can buy almost anywhere; the kind you can flatten by stomping on them?”

Denton: “Yes, they were.”

Petersen: “And you saw no damage?”

Denton: “Correct.”

Judge Moorman: “Redirect?”

Norman: “Briefly, yes. What was the reason Veronica lost control of the vehicle?”

Denton: “Because Mr. Slotte grabbed the wheel and put his hand on the gas [pedal].”

Norman: “And the reason she got out?”

Denton: “Because he held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her.”

Norman: “Other people were there when she told you this?”

Denton: “Yes there were.”

Norman: “She told you that while she was being drug [sic] the car hit the mailboxes?”

Denton: “No, that was someone else.”

Norman: “Witnesses overheard her statements to you?”

Denton: “Yes.”

Norman: “Did they interrupt her statements?”

Denton: “Yes.”

Moorman: “We can’t have ‘they’ — who were the witnesses?”

Denton: “Ellen and John Bratchet [sp?].”

Moorman: “And who made the statement, Ellen or John?”

Denton: “I don’t recall.”

Moorman: “So one of those people made a statement?”

Denton: “Yes.”

Moorman: “What did you hear the person say?”

Denton: “That she was drug about 40 feet.”

Norman: “Did either of them make a statement about the vehicle hitting the mailboxes?”

Denton: “That would have been Mr. Wolfe’s statement to [CHP] Officer Irwin.”

Norman: “In your presence?”

Denton: “Yes.”

Norman: “You didn’t find any evidence that she’s been thrown down?”

Denton: “You wouldn’t see it if she had.”

Petersen: “Objection, calls for speculation.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

Norman: “Veronica said she’d been drug only a short distance?”

Denton: “That’s right, 10 feet, I believe she said.”

Petersen: “Was it 10 or five feet?”

Denton (after checking his report): “Yes, you are correct: five feet.”

Petersen: “But whether it was five, 10 or 40 feet, there’s no evidence of her being drug at all, is there?”

Denton: “No, none.”

Petersen: “Any damage to the mailboxes?”

Denton: “Not that I could tell.”

Judge Moorman: “Is this witness excused?”

Prosecutor Norman: “Yes, judge. As to Count One, assault with a deadly weapon, a car, when Mr. Slotte decided to drive off and drag his wife, the evidence is clear enough, and there doesn’t have to be any injury … As to Count Two, assault with a deadly weapon, a knife, he pulled a knife and held it to her throat, and for Count Three, criminal threats, he threatened to kill her… Now as to the two counts of child endangerment, we have him first putting his hand on the throttle and grabbing the wheel, then driving off with the door open and the mother’s legs dangling out, and I think the court can find enough evidence for both counts.”

Petersen: “As to Count One, she claims she was drug [sic], but the problem is there are no markings on her legs, her boots, or the ground. It sounds like when my client tries to leave she jumps in — if you believe her story — and even if it’s true, it resulted in no injury.”

Judge Moorman: “No injury is required.”

Petersen: “Yes, but it should be a misdemeanor. And as to Counts Two and Three, there’s no knife, and the threat is very conditional, along with a complete lack of injury, your honor, these are all wobblers and none of it passes muster. Count Four alleges acceleration and grabbing the wheel, but there’s no evidence that happened. There would be a track through the grass at the very least, but the officer didn’t see even that much.”

Petersen then mentioned Jessie Slotte’s service and injuries in Iraq, his PTSD and the difficulty of getting into regional treatment programs.

Judge Moorman said, “What I’m going to do is conclude for today, and there’s a couple of things I’m going to look up — the claim that Mr. Slotte grabbed the wheel and put his hand on the throttle, well there’s something about the mechanics of that that, well, it’s impossible to evaluate the credibility of that, so what I want you to do is both [Mr. Petersen and Ms. Norman] come and see me over the next few days and see if we can’t reach some resolution.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.