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DA opposing bail reduction in Lompoc teen homicide case

DA opposing bail reduction in Lompoc teen homicide case

Santa Barbara County's district attorney is proactively asking a Superior Court judge not to reduce the bail amount for a suspect charged in connection to the March shooting death of a Lompoc teenager

The motion filed Friday requested bail not be lowered for Robert James Scott, 23, of Lompoc who was charged April 1 with accessory to murder after the fact in the death of 18-year-old Sarah Stoffle.

Stoffle was killed inside a residence in the 300 block of North Y Street on March 25, according to Lompoc Police.

Brenden Michael Terry, 20, of Lompoc was arrested in connection to Stoffle's death the day of the reported shooting, and he was charged with murder on March 30. 

Two days later, on March 27, Scott was arrested in the Mission Hills area north of Lompoc after an investigation revealed he tampered with evidence, according to Lompoc Police Sgt. Agustin Arias. 

Terry allegedly shot Stoffle in the chest at close range with a shotgun, which Scott reportedly wiped down with WD-40 after the shooting, court documents show. 

Scott's bail was set at $1 million, while Terry was denied bail, jail records show. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty. 

The District Attorney's motion was filed after the California Judicial Council on April 6 issued a set of emergency orders to resume some Superior Court functions following a partial shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

One order includes bail amounts to be reduced to $0 for defendants charged with most felonies and misdemeanors, except serious or violent ones, including violations of protective orders and DUIs. 

Scott's accessory charge, however, wasn't listed as an exception, leading to the proactive filing opposing the reduction of his bail, according to Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Schoenburg, who is prosecuting the case.

The District Attorney's Office on April 9 notified Michael Stoffle, the victim's father, that Scott could go free, prompting a flood of written correspondence from Stoffle's friends and family urging a judge to keep Scott in jail. 

The victim moved to California from Texas after graduating high school in June 2019 and was involved in a relationship with Terry, according to her father. 

In addition to the seriousness of Scott's charge, the district attorney noted he was out on bail for previous drug and vehicle theft charges. 

"He attempted to destroy evidence and cover up the crime in a well-thought-out-manner that took time," wrote Angelica Stoffle, the victim's mother. "This is evidence of the lack of conscience or remorse for this heinous crime."

Michael Scott, defendant Scott's attorney, responded to the opposition arguing that his client should be freed on $0 bail because his charge isn't included in the list of exceptions.

Superior Court Presiding Judge Michael Carrozzo, however, issued an interpretation on Monday to include any accessory charge filed in relation to the list of exceptions in the emergency rule, attorney Scott said. 

Attorney Scott intends to raise the issue of Carrozzo's interpretation at his client's preliminary hearing setting scheduled on April 23. 

Both Scott and Terry are co-defendants in the case and are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on April 30. 

However, it's unclear if the court dates will happen, depending on whether the court resumes most proceedings and if video conferencing is available for preliminary hearings by then, Scott said. 

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