A number of allegations made by Jennifer Schipsi were lies, a Palo Alto hookah lounge owner accused of murdering her testified in court Monday.
On the third day of his testimony, Bulos “Paul” Zumot, the 37-year-old owner of Da Hookah Spot, claimed Schipsi, a 29-year-old old real estate agent he is suspected of strangling and whose body he allegedly set ablaze to hide evidence, was dishonest in some of the text messages she sent him.
“She called the police a few times and lied… told them I threatened her, but I never threatened her,” Zumot told prosecutor Chuck Gillingham under cross-examination.
Text messages between the couple have been a focal point of the case. Prosecutors hope to use the messages as evidence to show that Schipsi and Zumot had a history of domestic abuse, and that Zumot killed Schipsi and then set their Addison Avenue home on fire with her body inside on Oct. 15, 2009.
During the cross-examination on Friday, Gillingham tried to portray Zumot as a violent and temperamental man as he asked him questions about their fights.
Monday Gillingham questioned Zumot’s motives, asking him what prompted him to delete certain text messages sent from Schipsi.
Zumot’s responses, which varied from “If I don’t like the message, I delete it,” to, “I can’t give you an answer. I don’t know why,” didn’t appear to satisfy Gillingham.
When asked why he let Schipsi walk home alone, upset and with a broken shoe heel, from the hookah lounge on the night of Oct. 14 following Zumot’s 36th birthday celebration with friends at DishDash restaurant in Sunnyvale, Zumot said he was drunk and was not able to drive after her.
He said he walked about half a block to look for her before returning to the hookah lounge and deciding to “give her space.”
As soon as Schipsi arrived home that night, she sent him a flurry of angry text messages, but Zumot said he “didn’t think it was a big deal” and that she was trying to get a reaction from him.
In several messages, Schipsi asked him for money she said he owed her and threatened to go to the police. Zumot said that not only did he pay her back, but that in many instances he had also paid her car payments, phone bill and car insurance fees.
He said he revealed the content of the messages to detectives when he was interviewed at the Police Department after the fire.
“If I was trying to hide something, I wouldn’t have brought my phone with me,” Zumot said.
Following Zumot’s testimony, Gillingham re-called James Eichbaum, a computer forensics expert from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office who earlier in the trial testified that he was unable to recover hundreds of messages in Zumot’s phone and a handful in Schipsi’s phone. Today he discussed GPS data in their phones.
Palo Alto police Officer Craig Lee, who was at the scene of the fire on Oct. 15, was also re-called to testify. He said he noted in his report that night that Zumot was “talking excitedly, and he looked like he was going to cry.”