Joseph Francis Corey stacked trash and other items of zero-to-minimal value 6 feet high in his living room, bedroom and bathroom, with his dogs and cats penned up in cages all around him.
And when, in his hoarder’s mind, the bank and the cops and a judge each in their own way acted to yank the very floor out from beneath his piles of precious stuff, prosecutors say Corey waited in ambush with a 35 Whelen bolt-action hunting rifle, and that he used it to shoot and kill Sacramento County animal control officer Roy Marcum, 45.
Corey’s murder trial began Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court, with defense attorney Jennifer Mouzis agreeing with Deputy District Attorney William Satchell that her client is responsible for Marcum’s homicide.
But what Satchell sees as first-degree murder with the special circumstances of lying in wait and shooting an officer in the performance of his duties, Mouzis interprets as the act of a mentally deranged hoarder who was so sick he couldn’t deliberate and premeditate the death of anybody.
The killing took place around noon on Nov. 28, 2012, at the front door of Corey’s house in the 600 block of First Street in Galt, the culmination of a long eviction struggle.
According to the prosecution’s court papers, Corey, 67, hadn’t made a house payment since July 2009. Citibank foreclosed on the property. Corey tried to make a federal case out of it, but U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England kicked it back to the county’s jurisdiction.
The day before the shooting, a Sacramento sheriff’s deputy showed up with two bank agents to serve Corey with an eviction notice and change the locks at his house. Corey left the place that afternoon, but the DA said in his opening statement that the killer doubled back, broke inside and waited at the top of the stairs with his big-game hunting rifle, looking through a front-door window for the law to return.
“None of them knew the defendant returned to the house,” Satchell told the jury. “None of them knew he sneaked back inside and barricaded the door. Nobody knew he sneaked in several high-powered rifles. Nobody knew he was on the other side of that door, waiting to shoot the animal control officer who was only doing his job.”
Mouzis said any view of the evidence must be taken through the lens of a classic hoarder whose junk reached halfway to the ceiling of every room in the house.
“I don’t show you this to shock you,” Mouzis said to the jury, as she gave the panel a room-by-room picture tour of Corey’s house on the big screen in Judge Greta Curtis Fall’s courtroom. “Mr. Corey is mentally ill. Mr. Corey is a hoarder.”
And, “When Mr. Corey was evicted from his house, everything was taken from him,” Mouzis said in her opening statement, “most importantly, his children – his eight dogs and his two cats.”
Mouzis said Corey is guilty of homicide, “but he didn’t deliberate. He didn’t premeditate. He was protecting his kids.”
The defense lawyer said her witness list will be topped by Robin Zasio, a licensed clinical psychologist and an expert on hoarders. In her psychological report on Corey, Zasio said he had been damaged early in life by a mother who “would throw away his stuff without his permission.”
An electrician and mechanic, Corey got married and had four kids, only to see his wife repeat his mother’s practice of throwing out his belongings without asking him – that is, before she dumped him after 17 years of marriage to take up with her boss, Zasio’s report said.
Corey, the psychologist said, “denies he suffers from hoarder’s disorder,” but he “meets all the criteria for it.”
Testimony began Tuesday with Salvador Ramirez, a property preservation employee working for Citibank, describing how Marcum was gunned down on the doorstep of Corey’s dilapidated house.
Ramirez told of how he went there with an assistant to change the locks while a sheriff’s deputy served the eviction notice.
The witness described Corey as “upset because he was losing his house.” Corey asked for more time to remove his dogs and cats, but when the deputy told him he still couldn’t stay there anymore, Ramirez’s wife, who was on the phone with her husband, testified she heard the defendant tell the deputy, “They’re your f------ problem now.”
The next day, Ramirez said he returned with his assistant, Ignacio Arreguin, and Marcum, and that when they went to knock on the door, he thought he saw somebody moving around inside. Ramirez said he tried to open the front door, “but it only opened 3 inches” – blocked, it turned out, by a board Corey used to nail it shut.
“Then I turned around,” Ramirez testified, “... and I heard, for me, it was like a big explosion or something.”
Debris from the round fired through the door cut Ramirez on the ear and embedded splinters into Arreguin’s chest. The bullet slammed into the right side of Marcum’s chest and tore a hole through his back. The officer died at the scene.
Corey holed up for 17 hours in the house before he surrendered.
Mouzis elicited testimony from Ramirez that Marcum wore a civilian’s jacket that she suggested – in taking aim at one of the special circumstance allegations – hid his animal control officer’s badge and patch, as well as his county identification on the lanyard around his neck.
The prosecution, however, is expected to call witnesses Wednesday to try to settle what Corey knew about whom he was shooting.
According to Satchell’s court papers, Marcum’s mother and niece went to visit Corey in jail after his arrest to find out why he killed their loved one.
Charlotte Marcum, the slain officer’s mother, said Corey told them, “I saw a man wearing a uniform from upstairs, and I wanted to kill an officer,” according to a transcript of their jail conversation.
Marcum’s niece – herself a court security officer – cursed the killer, while Charlotte Marcum chastised him for forcing them to go through “more pain” in the upcoming trial.
According to the transcript, Corey responded, “Will you come back and see me?”