According to Linda Gabaldon’s testimony, her roommate, Rebecca Brau, shot herself to death with four bullets to four different places in her body – the first one to the throat, and then three more to the right armpit, the right side of her head and an upward-angled blast to the abdomen.
Gabaldon, who is on trial for murder in the shooting death, told a Sacramento Superior Court jury last week the gunfire took place when Brau threatened her with the weapon and she tried to grab it away from her. Gabaldon had no explanation, however, for the contorted angles of gunfire and how Brau could have kept firing when one shot severed her spine and another separated her cerebellum, the part of the brain that regulates motor movement.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Smith, in his closing arguments to the jury Monday, offered his own characterization of Gabaldon’s version of events. Gabaldon, he said, is a liar, and her story simply isn’t true.
“Can’t happen,” Smith said in his closing arguments to the jury as he walked the panel through Gabaldon’s account. “Flat-out can’t happen.”
Brau, 53, a retired youth counselor, according to her family, and the mother of two children, was gunned down April 23, 2013, in her home on Mascot Avenue in unincorporated south Sacramento. Smith told the jury that Gabaldon, 46, a parolee with past convictions for robbery and for battery on a correctional officer when she was in prison, retrieved the handgun on her own and shot Brau in anger for making a teasing remark about the defendant’s menstrual cycle.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours Monday before Judge Sharon A. Lueras sent them home for the day.
The two women had been friends for nearly 30 years when Gabaldon went to live with Brau in August 2012. Gabaldon had just been paroled after spending 11 years in prison – seven for the robbery and four more for the attack on a staffer while she was an inmate at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
Gabaldon, who was paying $500 a month rent, told Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies there was tension in the living arrangement. She said she moved out at one point over a minor dispute, before moving back in with Brau at an increase in the rent to $700 a month.
The night before the death, Gabaldon said Brau made the teasing remark about her menstrual cramping. The DA told the jury that in a taped jailhouse conversation with her sister, Gabaldon said “I was pissed off at (Brau) because of her stupid comment.”
“Shut up, Rebecca,” Gabaldon said she told Brau, according to a transcript of the conversation with her sister. “That’s my personal.”
According to Smith, Gabaldon simmered in anger after the cramping comment and planned that night to shoot Brau the next morning. Gabaldon waited, the prosecutor said, until Brau’s 8-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son went to school, before she confronted the woman in her bedroom and shot her four times.
Smith said Gabaldon waited several hours before calling 911. In the meantime, she draped a sheet over Brau’s body “so she wouldn’t have to see Rebecca’s face staring at her the rest of the day,” the prosecutor said.
In the afternoon, Gabaldon drove Brau’s car to a post office and grabbed a bite to eat at Taco Bell.
“This is a person who doesn’t have a care in the world,” Smith said.
The prosecutor told the jury Gabaldon’s criminal record amounted to a “little notch” against her credibility as a witness. In one of her prior convictions, she sat on a man’s chest and beat him on the head and face during the course of a robbery, Smith said. She added to her record with the prison attack on the correctional officer, Smith said.
“You’re beginning to see a little pattern here,” he said.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Charles Bauer told the jury Gabaldon was nervous when she testified and that her performance as a witness “wasn’t particularly pretty.” Still, Bauer asked the jury to believe Gabaldon’s testimony that Brau “pulled a gun on Linda” the morning of the shooting and “ordered her into her room” for the purpose of shooting her.
Brau, the defense lawyer said, was “in control of the relationship” and “was pursuing an intimate relationship” with Gabaldon.
“Maybe she intended to rape her,” Bauer said. “Maybe she was going to murder her.”
Bauer said Gabaldon had lived through a history of bad relationships with both men and women. Along with self-defense, Bauer suggested Gabaldon was a victim of domestic violence.
Defense expert witness Linda Barnard, a psychologist who testifies regularly in the Sacramento courthouse, had described Gabaldon as a victim of “intimate partner battering syndrome.”
The syndrome, Bauer said, might explain Gabaldon’s confusion after the shooting and her “diminished capacity” to recount its details.
Smith questioned whether Gabaldon ever was a domestic violence victim. He said she told Barnard she had been slapped once by a common-law husband in the mid-1990s and that she immediately moved out. Gabaldon also told Barnard she’d been raped in prison, but Smith said that like the alleged abuse from some 20 years ago, there was no report to corroborate the statement.
“Don’t make excuses for her like her expert witness did,” Smith told the jury.