Paul Moore is being tried in the 2011 murder of family ranch foreman Robert Ayala, but Moore's lawyer has portrayed the defendant's cousin, Peter Moore, as a more likely suspect.

Closing arguments due in Colusa bomb trial

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 - 12:05 pm

The defense did a great job Wednesday making Peter Moore look like a terrible guy, but it soon will be up to a jury to decide if authorities charged the wrong cousin in a fatal rice-ranch bombing in Colusa County.

With the prosecution and defense both resting their cases, today's proceedings have been set aside for closing arguments in the murder trial of Paul Moore that was sent to Sacramento Superior Court on a change of venue motion.

Prosecutors based the strongest part of their case on an imprint of a bomb diagram found in Paul Moore's home. It matched up, they said, to the diagram that was actually sent to investigators about a month after the July 16, 2011, explosion that killed Robert Ayala, 43, while the Moore Brothers ranch foreman was making his rounds on the family's 1,800-acre farm.

Defense attorney Linda Parisi has suggested since testimony began that it actually was Peter Moore who planted the bomb. She said he was mad because he'd been cut out of the multimillion-dollar Moore Brothers operation by his 76-year-old, cantankerous father, Gus, who is known by his nickname of "Grumpy."

Parisi turned much of the trial against her client into the trial of Peter Moore. The defense put on evidence that Peter Moore – who was estranged from the ranch that he wanted to lead – threatened Ayala because he resented that the ranch foreman wanted to run the operation.

She continued her bludgeoning of Peter Moore, 50, in her cross-examination of him Wednesday just before the prosecution rested its case. She got him to repeat his statement that when it came to his uncle, Roger, who is Paul Moore's father, "I hate that son of a bitch."

The defense lawyer also played a YouTube video that her computer expert found in Peter Moore's Mac. The video showed a slow-motion filming of a rat trap snapping carrots, flicking a toy dinosaur and piercing a butane lighter. In the finale to the video, the rat trap punctured the lighter next to an open flame that whooshed much larger with the addition of the spraying gas.

"Isn't it true you watched the video and that's where you got the idea for the bomb?" Parisi asked.

"No, it's not," Moore replied.

He said he never saw the video.

When Parisi put on the defense case, she called a longtime ranch hand, Antonio Ruiz, to testify that Peter Moore said in a conversation a couple months before the Ayala killing that "he didn't like" Ayala and that "he was practicing his karate so he could fight him."

Ruiz's wife, Consuelo, said that years ago, Peter Moore ran over and killed their family dog. "I think he did it on purpose," she said, and that he never apologized. "He just kept driving his truck."

A neighbor of Peter Moore's father who is helping to care for the aging man said he overheard Peter say in a telephone conversation that "he was going to come over and kill him." Peter Moore denied in his testimony on Tuesday that he ever threatened to kill his father, saying only that he wanted to "beat my dad's a--" over long-standing issues between the two.

Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner and special prosector David Druliner of the state attorney general's office used Peter Moore's testimony earlier in the week to say he had been poisoned against Roberto Ayala by his cousin Paul, 48, the charged defendant.

Peter Moore testified under the prosecution's questioning that Paul Moore told him that according to Ayala, Gus Moore cut him out of his will and Ayala stood to benefit.

Investigators focused on Peter Moore in the days after the bombing, but Poyner said it was the cousin's account as well as statements from other family members that directed them toward Paul Moore. When a Dec. 6, 2011, search of Paul Moore's home in Grimes turned up the diagram and other evidence in the investigation, Paul Moore was charged in the murder of Ayala, who was blown up and electrocuted while turning on an irrigation pump.

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

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