If you’ve read the article in the news already, please scroll down to the “Kicking Horse Addendum” portion.
Boyfriend Arrested in Connection with Woman’s Death in Palo Alto Fire
By Will Oremus and Tracey Kaplan
Daily News Staff Writer and Bay Area News Group
Posted: 10/19/2009 08:38:20 PM PDT
Updated: 10/19/2009 11:19:50 PM PDT
Palo Alto police on Monday arrested the boyfriend of a woman found dead in a house fire Thursday night.
Bulos “Paul” Zumot, 36, owner of the downtown Palo Alto smoking lounge Da Hookah Spot, was arrested on suspicion of homicide and arson in the death of 29-year-old real estate agent Jennifer Schipsi. Firefighters found her body on a bed while battling a blaze that ultimately gutted the front bedroom of the Addison Avenue cottage she shared with Zumot.
Police arrested Zumot without incident at his business on University Avenue at about 5:30 p.m. Monday following an almost around-the-clock, four-day investigation, Palo Alto police Sgt. Dan Ryan said.
An autopsy revealed that Schipsi was likely already dead when the fire began, Ryan added. He didn’t say when or how police believe she was killed.
“We believe this was an act of passion,” he said. “We believe it was an act of domestic violence that led to her death, and we believe the arson was meant to cover up murder.” Court records show Zumot was already on probation for bombarding Schipsi with hundreds of threatening e-mails and text massages, including one that read, “I have to get you out of my life @ any price.” He was one of three men against whom she had sought restraining orders in the past 18 months.
In an interview with The Daily News on Friday, Zumot said he rushed home from work on Thursday after getting a call that the house was on fire. He said he didn’t know what could have caused the blaze, but he mentioned problems with the gas stove in the rental and pointed out that Schipsi smoked in bed. He also said she was being stalked by a former neighbor.
In addition, Zumot said he had been planning to travel with Schipsi to Palm Desert over the weekend, where he planned to “surprise her” with an engagement ring.” But Zumot failed to note that he had been convicted of harassing and threatening Schipsi — 88 times in a single day alone, according to court documents. The threats began after Schipsi broke up with him in February 2008. She claimed he kicked her Mercedes, cracking the front grill and denting the passenger door.
The two had a volatile relationship that included a restraining order against Zumot and three arrests for domestic violence battery — two for him and one for her. At the time of the fire, the two were living together again.
The court dismissed the battery charge against Schipsi stemming from a Christmas Day 2008 incident in which both claimed the other had been physically abusive.
In Zumot’s case, the most recent charges against him were dropped after the couple apparently made up and Schipsi amended her restraining order to allow peaceful contact.
However, Zumot remained on probation after pleading no contest to one misdemeanor count of threatening her in March 2008 via phone, e-mail and text messages. In the absence of witnesses, the battery charge in that case was dismissed.
In a Feb. 13 letter to the court, a counselor for Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence noted discussing the volatile relationship with Schipsi. The counselor informed Schipsi that she had the right to ask the court to reinstitute a no-contact restraining order and also discussed “safety concerns.” But in his interview with The Daily News on Friday, Zumot said Schipsi was being stalked by a former neighbor from San Jose. Court records confirm that just last month she filed civil harassment complaints against a pair of brothers from San Jose.
Sgt. Ryan said police believe Zumot acted alone, however. He said the investigation is continuing, and authorities are asking for help from anyone with information about their relationship. In particular, he said, they want to talk to people who were present at a 36th birthday party for Zumot the night before the fire. Witnesses said Schipsi was there too, Ryan noted.
Schipsi recently worked at a local office of Alain Pinel Realtors, selling homes in new developments, Ryan said.
On Monday, the cottage on Addison Avenue was surrounded by tape that read “No Trespassing.” Outside, a scorched mattress leaned against a fence. Baskets of flowers had been placed in the front yard.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department’s anonymous tip line at 650-329-2190.
E-mail Will Oremus at email@example.com.
Kicking Horse Addendum
A lot of times we think we are protecting our loved ones when we don’t report domestic violence. We have spouses, siblings, children, and extramarital partners we try to save from the mercy of the courts by excusing them, harboring them, pleading with others to forgo prosecution, etc. THIS DOES NOT HELP. People who abuse their domestic partners have real problems, psychosocial issues that need addressing. It is only through confrontation that we can help these people. We help our loved ones by forcing them to deal with the consequences of their actions, come what may. Many of us would rather have our loved ones serve time for DV (anywhere from a few days to a year depending on degree of offense for first-time offenders) than rape or murder. It is not easy to look at the people we love and see them for what they are or what they are capable of. Its even harder to be an instrument in their possible punishment. What is hardest of all, however, is losing them, perhaps indefinitely because we failed to be an instrument in their recovery and were instead an instrument in their disease.
Average Penalties for Domestic Violence in California
* If convicted, a first-time domestic violence offender is usually placed on probation with a few days of jail time and community service. 1203.097 PC
* Felonies can result in confinement in the state prison. Misdemeanors can result in up to one year in the county jail.
* Fines can be as much as $6,000 and up to $10,000 for a second offense.
* The court can issue a “Stay-Away” order pending trial or a protective order with prohibitions against violence, threats, stalking, sexual abuse, and harassment.
* If appropriate, an order excluding the defendant from the residence.
* A domestic violence offender is usually required to complete a 52-week batterer’s counseling program.
* A ten-year ban on the use or possession of a firearm.
* Possible participation in a chemical dependency program.
* Periodic court appearances for progress reports.
* Penalties for domestic violence related offenses include significant fines, counseling, and 16 weeks of anger management classes.
I believe that any one of us would agree that the consequences listed above are more desireable than 25 to life or a death sentence.
Above I speak about addressing domestic violence issues pertaining to our loved ones as offenders. The consequences of not addressing domestic violence when our loved ones are the victims can be even worse:
Domestic Violence: The Facts
* Each day in the U.S., three women die as result of domestic violence.
* More than one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
* More than three out of four Americans know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
The statistics speak volumes about the impact of domestic violence, yet few feel comfortable discussing the subject. http://bit.ly/1WsNf
I cannot stress this enough. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A “WE” PROBLEM. IT IS NOT A WOMEN’S ISSUE. MEN ARE JUST AS RESPONSIBLE, IF NOT MORE RESPONSIBLE TO BE PROACTIVE IN ADDRESSING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Their are many ways to assist in curbing domestic violence. Our ultimate goal is to prevent deaths and heal our people as a whole. Below are a few links so that you can learn more. Sites below were picked at random with the exception of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, of which I have a good friend as a contact.
I think I may be abusive… what can I do?