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Man Accused of Hiding Camera in Carpinteria Woman’s Bedroom Appears in Court

Preliminary hearing focuses on details of the night the victim and her boyfriend found the recording

A Carpinteria man facing charges of eavesdropping on a Carpinteria woman via hidden camera in her bedroom appeared in court Thursday, and his preliminary hearing is expected to wrap up Friday morning.

Donald Lee Bedford
Donald Lee Bedford

Donald Lee Bedford, 55, was arrested in July after the 30-year-old victim discovered a camera hidden inside a book on a bookshelf in her room.

The defendant has been charged with one count of felony eavesdropping and a count of unlawful electronic peeping, which is a misdemeanor. Both attorneys asked that the name of the woman not be released.

Bedford appeared in court and out of custody Thursday, and the prosecution and defense spent much of the day talking about what took place the night of the recording. The camera tape was the centerpiece of the court discussion.

Photos of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book that hid the device were shown. In the middle of the word “Chicken” printed on the book’s spine, a hole had been cut out that allowed the lens of the camera to peer into the room. A small rectangular space had been cut out inside the book’s pages, which held the recorder in place after it had been duct-taped shut. The camera was level with the foot of the woman’s bed and was placed among other books on a shelf.

A television sat just above the book, so most of the sound is muffled on the recording of the victim and her boyfriend. The presence of audio makes a crime a felony if confidential communications are captured.

The beginning of the tape shows Bedford tinkering with the camera, flashing up to his face. The tape then cuts to black for several minutes. The court wasn’t allowed to watch the next part of the tape, but while the judge and counsel watched the tape, the audio was kept on for the public to hear. The noise of television is prominent, though several conversations between the couple can be heard clearly.

The video and audio contained “sensitivities” of the woman and her boyfriend, according to prosecutor Ali Neuffer, so only certain portions were shown to the public.

Santa Barbara police Detective Wesley Johnson said the 46-minute tape shows the victim and her boyfriend disrobing to their underwear, and the victim is eventually shown topless. The victim told Johnson that Bedford, her mother’s boyfriend, “was always around,” and Johnson said he thought the device was sound activated, and would turn on if there was noise in the room.

The second portion of the video was shown to the court, during which the couple are in bed, watching television. It’s difficult to see them in the darkness of the room, but their voices can be heard, although it’s difficult to discern them over the noise of the television. Something in the movie the couple were watching prompted the victim to search out one of her books, according to Johnson. The tape shows the victim discovering the camera. Visibly panicked, she shows it to her boyfriend.

“Break it or something,” she tells him in the video when she realizes it’s still recording. “I’ve never seen this book before in my life. I don’t know where it came from.”

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputy Philip Farley was working at the Carpinteria substation that night when the victim came in after discovering the camera.

“She was upset,” he told the court. “She had been crying.”

The woman told Farley that she suspected Bedford because he had a key to the apartment and could come and go as he pleased. She also told Farley that Bedford was a computer engineer, and proficient with devices such as the camera.

The morning after the incident, Bedford went to the victim’s mother and told her what he had done, according to Johnson. But he told her that he had planted the camera “in order to listen to her financial situation,” Johnson said, adding that the mother thought he had planted the camera for a sexual purpose.

Part of attorney William Makler’s defense focused on the positioning of the microphone on the device. He said an inch or so of pressed paper was up against the microphone when the book was fully closed, which could cast doubt on whether Bedford’s intent was recording audio. Makler also took issue with Johnson’s testimony about whether the couple could be clearly understood in the video. Johnson recorded in his report that discernible conversation could be heard in the video, but clarified Thursday that only portions were discernible. 

Bedford’s hearing will continue at 10 a.m. Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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