A man charged with being an accomplice to the killing of an 18-year-old woman allegedly shot by her boyfriend in Lompoc won’t get reduced bail under relaxed rules related to the public health crisis.
Bail for Robert James Scott, 23, of Lompoc will remain at $1 million despite recent emergency orders widely granting release to many inmates in the state, prompting opposition from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and the victim’s family. They urged a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge to keep Scott in custody.
Sarah Stoffle, who had moved from Texas months earlier, was found dead after Lompoc police officers were dispatched the morning of March 25 to a home on the 300 block of North Y Street.
The same day, police announced they had arrested her boyfriend, Brenden Michael Terry, 20, after determining Stoffle had been shot to death, with the wound near the center of her chest.
Terry’s great-grandmother, Florence Daniels, called police to report the death, according to the District Attorney’s Office motion seeking to keep Scott in custody.
Officers found Stoffle’s body in a shed behind the residence and said she had been shot one time at very close range with a shotgun.
Daniels reportedly told police she saw Scott on her patio “wiping the murder weapon, a sawed-off shotgun, with WD-40.”
A few hours after the 911 call police recovered the weapon, which had a greasy film on it, police said.
The victim reportedly had talked to her mother the morning of the shooting, with their conversation ending at 6:56 a.m. Video from nearby shows Scott and Brenden Terry’s sister, Kayla, loading a vehicle and leaving with their children.
“From Kayla Terry’s statement they left the house after the shooting,” according to court documents.
Scott and Kayla Terry returned three hours later and remained for nearly 20 minutes before leaving again at 10:36 a.m. Daniels called 911 at 11:18 a.m.
Days after finding Stoffle’s body, police arrested Scott and charged him with being an accessory to the crime, with bail set at more than $1 million.
But an April 6 order from the California Judicial Council has established rules for releasing most inmates from county jails on zero bail with a few exceptions, effective 5 p.m. Monday.
Defense attorney Michael Scott, who is not related to his client, said accessory to a crime was not spelled out in the zero bail exceptions from the Judicial Council.
“If you look at Emergency Rule 4, he gets the benefit of that rule,” the defense attorney said. “That’s my view.”
His client was not charged with committing the violent crime.
“My point was despite the fact the family suffered a great loss, he’s not the one who shot her,” the defense attorney said.
The District Attorney’s Office filed a motion opposing Scott’s release, contending the public order notes exceptions for felonies deemed serious or violent.
Bail amounts typically are calculated on the crime linked to the charge — murder in this case. Scott’s bail is $1 million.
“The People assert that the exclusion of this particular crime in the 13 exceptions was an oversight and that common sense would dictate that being an accessory to a serious or violent crime should be included,” Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Schoenburg wrote.
On Monday, Santa Barbara Presiding Judge Michael Carrozzo issued a ruling saying the local court would adopt the emergency rule with two exceptions, one of which specifically cited being an accessory to an underlying crime.
Law enforcement officers across the state have opposed the zero-bail measure for pre-trial defendants. The measure recently led to releases of 77 inmates from Ventura County Jail and approximately 50 from the San Luis Obispo County Jail.
This is not the defendant’s first criminal case.
In addition to several felony crimes from Kern County, Scott had been charged in January in Santa Barbara County with felony stealing a vehicle plus misdemeanor possessing marijuana over 1 ounce and driving without a license.
He was out on a bail at the time of the homicide.
His previous cases include stolen vehicles and narcotics-related charges.
Under the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, also known as Marsy’s Law, Stoffle’s family asked a judge to consider their opposition to his release.
Sarah Stoffle’s mother, Angelica, said she wanted to express her extreme opposition to Scott’s release, saying he apparently attempted to destroy evidence.
“His attempt to cover up a murder and his flagrant disregard for the law in the past indicates that he will stop at nothing to avoid the consequences of his actions,” Angelica Stoffle wrote.
Scott remained in custody Tuesday morning.
Both defendants in the homicide case were set to return to court April 23 to confirm whether the preliminary hearing will go forward as tentatively planned on April 30.