On Halloween afternoon in Yolo County Superior Court, Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden used a timely source to explain his certainty that defendant David Froste was guilty of the kidnapping and murder of two Woodland teenagers: the writings of Gothic author Edgar Allen Poe.
As he made his closing argument, Linden projected the final line of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” for jurors, in which the guilt-ridden narrator admits to hiding the body of a murder victim beneath his floor.
“‘Villains!’ I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! here, here! — It is the beating of his hideous heart!’” the projection read.
Linden argued that like Poe’s character, Froste and his co-conspirators could not help but admit to their roles in the vicious murders of Elijah Moore and Enrique Rios.
Froste, 27, is accused of kidnapping and killing Moore and Rios in fall 2016 in retaliation for Moore allegedly stealing marijuana from him.
During the three-week trial, Linden presented multiple witnesses who testified that Froste, his younger brother Jonathan Froste and friend Jesus Campos, 18, admitted their part in the crimes to other friends, family and, in Campos’ case, a cellmate wearing a wire.
David Froste profanely proclaimed to his mother in jail, “I have no (expletive) alibi,” according to a jail recording played at trial.
Froste’s brother, Jonathan Froste, 21, accepted a plea deal in exchange for testimony against his older brother. He will serve 15 years to life for second-degree murder in the slayings.
“Our perpetrators could not help but unburden themselves,” Linden told jurors.
Jurors began their deliberations Wednesday afternoon to determine David Froste’s fate in a case that grabbed national attention and raised controversy about how local law enforcement responded to reports from the victims’ families when the boys went missing. For months, there was speculation that Moore and Rios had run away, though both of their mothers were adamant that a crime had been committed.
Linden said the Froste brothers, Campos and a fourth friend, Chandale Shannon, killed Rios and Moore as brutal payback after Moore robbed David Froste and Shannon of three ounces of marijuana in the parking lot of a Woodland Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Froste “wanted blood,” Linden said.
Linden said Froste and the others forced Moore into a car in downtown Woodland on Nov. 4 and drove him to a wooded location. Linden said David Froste and Campos left to purchase supplies to bury Moore.
“Don’t let him go. I want to kill him,” Linden said David Froste told his gang, which called themselves “The Squad.”
Moore was bludgeoned with oak branches and a log and shot in the head, prosecutors said.
Rios, a friend of Moore, was kidnapped and killed two weeks earlier. Linden said Froste was searching for Moore, and kidnapped Rios because he believed he knew Moore’s location.
Rios was lured to a remote area by the Sacramento River near Knights Landing with the promise of a party and shot in the torso and in the head, prosecutors said.
Tearful mothers Lola Rios and Alicia Moore sat together in the gallery as Linden recounted the murders.
Supervising Yolo County Public Defender Martha Sequeira argued Froste is innocent, the scapegoat of authorities who dropped the ball on the initial investigation and who now want to mollify angry family members whose missing sons were “seen as runaways and problem children instead of victims of crime.”
“They needed to do something. Otherwise, they’d have to stand in front of TV cameras and explain why they haven’t filed charges,” she said.
Sequeira also argued Froste’s brother, Jonathan, and friend Shannon had motives for the murders and might have committed them without the elder Froste. Jonathan Froste had incentive to turn against his brother and talk to investigators, Sequeira said.
“Jonathan Froste is scared. He’s scared because he’s guilty.” Sequeira said. “He was drowning. He grabbed onto a life preserver and made up a story.”
Linden argued that interviews with Jonathan Froste, Campos, Shannon and their associates — along with GPS records — put David Froste at each of the scenes central to the case: Moore’s robbery; the downtown storefront where Moore was kidnapped; and the remote area where Rios and Moore met their ends.
“The Rios and Moore families have waited two years for justice,” Linden said.
Shannon has not yet been tried, and is currently being reviewed for mental competency. Campos, 16 at the time of the killings, will return to Yolo County Juvenile Court in January.