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Paul Moore is on trial in the killing of a Colusa farm foreman. Moore's cousin Peter, who made a threat against the slain man, testified that he regrets that remark.

Murder defendant's cousin weeps while discussing slain Colusa farm foreman

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 - 11:22 am

The angry Peter Moore who talked about ripping people's heads off gave way to a softer Peter Moore who needed a tissue to dab the emotion out of his eyes when he testified Tuesday in his cousin's murder trial.

Moore's tears flowed when special prosecutor David Druliner of the state attorney general's office showed him a message he posted on a sports gambling website a couple days after the July 16, 2011, explosion on the family farm in Colusa County that killed foreman Roberto Ayala.

"Please say a prayer for this family," Moore wrote. "He had five children and he was their breadwinner. Appreciate today and know that tomorrow can be gone … God bless this family and God Speed."

Peter Moore's discussion of the "horrible tragedy" at CappersMall.com provided a striking contrast from the depiction of Peter Moore at trial by his cousin Paul Moore's defense.

The evidence had shown that he once threatened to harm Ayala and that he was mad at his father and uncle about his belief that he'd been cut out of the future of the Moore Brothers agricultural operation outside the little town of Grimes.

It also included a statement he once made in which he threatened to rip the head off an acquaintance who'd bad-mouthed him to his uncle behind his back.

Writing under the name of "Steel," on the off-topic "Main Street" chat forum on the site, Moore told his online friends how the explosion killed Ayala instantly and blew the windshield out of the victim's truck while Ayala's young son was inside and how the boy ran 2 miles to get help.

He wrote: "I know my family will do everything they can to make sure that financials will be taken care of" on behalf of the Ayala family.

Whether the Sacramento Superior Court jury believes the emotion Peter Moore displayed on the witness stand could become a factor in its decision on Paul Moore's guilt or innocence.

The 48-year-old defendant is accused of murder in Ayala's death. His attorney, Linda Parisi, has sought to deflect blame onto Peter Moore, 50. That effort would appear to be undercut if jurors believe the defendant's cousin was genuinely emotional on Tuesday.

The trial has served as a dramatic presentation of the family dynamics at work in the succession of a rice-farming business that is in its second generation.

In phone messages left with Roger Moore, the defendant's father, Peter Moore said he'd been cut out of his own father Gus' will.

On Monday, Parisi, in her cross-examination of Peter Moore, focused on the threat he once made that Ayala, who had injured an arm, "is all mine" once he heals.

The witness admitted Tuesday to saying other "horrible stuff" about Roberto Ayala over the years, "and I feel horrible about that."

Parisi also bored in on threats he made against his father.

Peter admitted that he wanted "to beat my dad's a--" for a variety of reasons going back to what he testified was physical abuse he suffered as a child. Peter Moore admitted somewhat sheepishly that when a man told his uncle that "it sounds like a war out there" at a private duck blind he ran on the Moore Brothers ranch, he told the fellow, "I was going to rip his head off and (urinate) down his throat."

"It's a horrible figure of speech I'll never use again," Peter Moore testified.

No physical violence ever resulted from the threat.

Informed of the assorted angry remarks, Colusa County investigators focused on Peter Moore in the early stages of the investigation into the death of the 43-year-old Ayala.

Moore said he hired a lawyer after a law enforcement friend told him, "They're coming after you."

"I was pushed into doing it," Peter Moore said. "I didn't want to spend the money."

He said he was embarrassed by having to get a lawyer because, "In my world, people who hire attorneys are hiding something."

When Parisi asked him why he hired the lawyer, then, he said it was because the situation was "way overwhelming."

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case against Paul Moore today in the trial that was moved from Colusa County to Sacramento on a change-of-venue motion.

Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson granted the motion after hearing defense arguments about pretrial publicity and the reach of the Moore Brothers operation in Colusa County.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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