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Paul Moore

Jury finds Paul Moore guilty in murder of Colusa ranch foreman

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 8:40 am

Following about five hours of deliberations, a jury decided Friday which cousin killed the ranch foreman of the Moore Brothers rice farming operation in Colusa County, and the answer was the one sitting in the defendant's chair.

Paul Roger Moore, 49, is facing life in prison with no chance of parole after his first-degree murder conviction with the special-circumstance allegation that he killed Roberto Ayala, 43, by planting a bomb that exploded when the foreman was turning on an irrigation pump.

Eduardo Ayala, whose brother was killed July 16, 2011, while making his rounds on the Moore Brothers ranch, said outside court, "I waited 25 months and seven days and I don't know how many hours for this. It was a long time coming."

The case featured a detailed look at the troubled succession of an 1,800-acre agricultural operation that was supposed to go into its third generation of family farming.

The long-term future of Moore Brothers is in jeopardy as a result of the conviction of the man who was slated, according to his father's testimony, to take over 50 percent of the operation.

"It wasn't an easy decision at all," juror Donald Morris, 50, a UPS truck driver, said in an interview after the verdict was read about 5:20 p.m. in Sacramento Superior Court. "The jurors wanted to believe that Paul Moore was innocent. We were all reluctantly brought to the conclusion he was guilty by the evidence."

Morris said there was "no smoking gun."

"It was the evidence as presented in total that made it impossible for us to find any other way," he said.

Throughout the trial, defense attorney Linda Parisi fired away at Paul Moore's cousin, Peter Moore, 50, in an attempt to shift the blame for the killing on him.

In the rebuttal argument Friday, special prosecutor David Druliner of the state attorney general's office outlined the heart of the case against Paul Moore in the booby-trap bombing murder of Ayala.

Investigators found an imprinted diagram of the blast device in Moore's house, he said. They also discovered at Moore's residence a printer with ink and paper "chemically indistinguishable," Druliner said, from the diagram the killer mailed to Colusa County detectives about a month after the explosion.

Druliner also pointed out that eight separate touches of Moore's fingerprints turned up on the implicating imprinted diagram.

"Either Paul Moore blew Roberto Ayala all over Colusa County – murdered him – or Peter (Moore) did," Druliner told the jury. "This evidence says Paul Moore did it, because there is no connection whatsoever to Peter Moore.

"He's got the printer," Druliner said of Paul Moore. "He's got the inks and he's got the paper used in this case. Wow. Pretty amazing, huh?"

Druliner presented to the jury a two-page writing by Paul Moore titled "My Life" that the prosecution said revealed the bitterness the defendant held for the farm operation, his family and Ayala.

The defendant wrote that even though he was the son of one of the owners, when he worked on the farm, "I was just another employee but treated worse than anyone else."

He said he was never included in the decision-making process while Roberto Ayala and his brother Eduardo, who replaced the victim as Moore Brothers foreman, were "included in the morning muster and have input in what will take place that day."

Roger and Gus Moore, the brothers who ran the farm in its second generation, invited the two Ayala brothers "to rice meetings with my dad." The Ayalas, Moore wrote, "are involved in the farming operation far more than I ever was."

He complained how Roberto Ayala took time off work to take his kids to school and never was laid off during the winter months, while the company gave him and his brother free livestock feed and let them take farm equipment for their personal use.

"What did I do wrong to be treated this way?" Paul Moore wrote. "I guess I was born into a family who are good to everyone who isn't family."

Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner, who tried the case with Druliner, described Paul Moore as "evil as can be."

"To have him sitting there staring at you with his death stare for three weeks, it's uncomfortable," Poyner said.

For the last week, it was Peter Moore who endured a scathing examination. Parisi roasted him over three days of cross-examination and direct questioning about his ill-tempered remarks over more than two decades.

Peter Moore admitted he hated his uncle Roger, Paul's father. He agreed he had threatened to rip people's heads off, even beat up his own father. He twice threatened to harm Ayala, including once two months before the fatal explosion.

In her closing arguments, Parisi told the jury, "Paul Moore did not plant that bomb. He did not kill Roberto Ayala. Peter Moore is guilty. He planted the bomb, and he killed Roberto Ayala."

She suggested Roberto Ayala had stolen Peter Moore's birthright, had "taken his place with his father," Gus, in the operation of the ranch, and "now had taken his place in the inheritance."

"And now Robert Ayala had to be stopped," Parisi argued.

Parisi argued that Peter Moore planted the imprinted diagram at Paul Moore's house. She said Friday she was "very disappointed" in the verdict. "I felt there were so many questions and that the evidence didn't answer them," she said. "I felt there was more than enough reasonable doubt."

Peter Moore declined to comment after the verdict.

In their arguments, neither Druliner nor Poyner defended the character of Peter Moore.

"Obnoxious," "loudmouth" and "blowhard" were a few of the words they used to describe him. They pointed out, however, that Peter Moore never actually followed up any of his threats on human beings with physical violence.

Nor did the 50-year-old cousin who works as a landscape contractor benefit from the death of Roberto Ayala, they said, pointing out that he still is on the outs of the Moore Brothers operation.

About a dozen Ayala family members attended the trial every day. Eduardo Ayala described his slain brother as "a big-hearted person."

"He would lend out a hand to anybody who was in need. He was well liked by the community. He was an all-around nice guy," he said.

The case was moved to Sacramento on a change of venue motion. Colusa Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson scheduled the sentencing for Oct. 25 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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