3 murder suspects in case of missing Woodland teens appear in preliminary hearing
Editor’s note (July 16): This story has been corrected to say that a Woodland police investigator alleged David Froste fatally shot Enrique Rios. The previous version incorrectly said it was a different suspect.
One of the teens was bludgeoned to death, the other was shot. Both of their bodies were burned, then buried in a shallow grave. Such was Elijah Moore and Enrique Rios’ fate, a Woodland police investigator testified on the final day of preliminary hearing testimony against the men facing murder and kidnapping charges in the teenagers’ deaths.
On Friday, a Yolo County judge ordered Knights Landing brothers David Froste, 27, and 21-year-old Jonathan Froste, and Chandale Shannon, 21, to face a jury trial in the slayings.
“For three days, the court has heard the unfolding of a sad story,” Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg said from the bench. “Crimes were committed including the murders of Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore. Ultimately, the case has to go to a jury to sort out the ins and outs and the convolutions.”
”We’re happy with the ruling,” Lola Rios Gutierrez, Enrique’s mother said after the hearing. “It’s exactly what we were waiting for.”
The disappearance of the Cesar Chavez School friends and classmates weeks apart in late 2016 gripped Woodland and brought together local and federal investigators to solve the mystery.
Even as a trial looms, Rios and Moore’s bodies have yet to be recovered.
A fourth defendant, Jesus Campos, 18, will next face a judge in August to determine whether he will be tried in juvenile court on the allegations. It was Campos who allegedly revealed to an inmate while in Yolo County custody that the two were buried in a wooded area near a levee, Woodland investigating Sgt. Mathew Jameson testified.
Jameson said he and another officer listened in on Campos’ jailhouse conversation detailing how the friends’ bodies were disposed. It was the final step in what prosecutors allege were revenge killings of the Yolo teens — deadly payback for marijuana thefts, including one in which Moore allegedly pulled a gun on Shannon and David Froste.
“He said that they all had gotten their hands dirty,” Jameson said of Campos, as the families of Moore and Rios murmured, cried and called out from the gallery, adding that Campos said by killing Rios and Moore, they “did what they had to do.”
One unidentified man directed a vulgarity at the defendants from the gallery, apologized, and was ejected by Rosenberg. Others quietly sobbed.
Moore and Rios were marked men, according to Woodland investigative sergeants Darren Imus and Jameson. Imus testified earlier Friday that friends of Campos said he showed them a cellphone photo of Moore, told them that Moore stole marijuana from him, then revealed what happened next.
“He said, ‘Remember that kid who robbed us? Well, I killed him,’ ” Imus testified Campos’ friend told him in an interview.
“They had found Elijah, got him in a car with a gun or knife,” Imus testified, before driving Moore to a riverbank where Campos’ friend said Campos hit Moore with “a big stick.” The blow was so violent, the friend told investigators, that Campos said he vomited at the sight.
Jameson testified that Moore was waylaid in downtown Woodland by David Froste and Campos, who spotted Moore near the check-cashing location where he was last seen. Froste pulled out scissors, ordered Moore into the trunk of his car, and drove out to the remote area known as “The Cuts.”
Froste also persuaded Rios to take a ride with him, Shannon and Campos. The ride ended at the water’s edge near Knights Landing. Rios was ordered out of the car and into the water. Froste fired gunshots, Jameson testified. Rios climbed out of the water, then to Shannon uttered what were likely his final words: “I think I’m dead, bro,” as Froste shot him in the stomach.
Defense attorneys attacked Campos’ statements to investigators as inconsistent and unreliable and argued in vain that younger brother Jonathan Froste and Shannon could not be tied to the teens’ deaths. Without physical evidence — the bodies of Moore and Rios — prosecutors did not have a case to take to trial, they argued.
“If you take away the statements of Campos and Shannon, you have very little. You have two missing youths. That’s it,” said Shannon’s defense attorney, Robert Spangler.
Rosenberg disagreed. The Froste brothers and Shannon will be arraigned for trial July 27.