Lead detective in Sebastopol stabbing death takes the stand

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The lead detective in a 2018 stabbing that killed a 19-year-old Sebastopol man took the stand Friday afternoon, saying surveillance video from a Santa Rosa home showed how the suspect ditched his getaway vehicle at a friend’s house and fled to San Rafael within an hour of the stabbing.

Interviews with witnesses at the scene and other evidence led Sonoma County Sheriff’s Detective Theodore Vellis, the lead investigator on the case, to zero in on Sebastopol resident Anthony Ibach, now 19, Vellis said Friday before a Sonoma County jury.

Vellis’ testimony, the 45-minute home surveillance video and testimony by a San Rafael officer who arrested Ibach later that day, helped prosecutors Friday retrace Ibach’s movements in the minutes and hours that followed the stabbing.

Vellis was put on the case after the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office was asked to take over as the lead investigating agency for the stabbing, which took place last April 21, just after the end of the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Parade.

Sebastopol resident Cory Vaughn died at the scene of the stabbing, reported at about 12:30 p.m. at a parking lot shared by the Gravenstein Grill and other businesses.

Vaughn was said to have been at a party at an apartment across the street from the parking lot when Ibach’s calls to people at the gathering drew him outside, and a fight about an unspecified problem ensued. Ibach was seen fleeing in a burgundy BMW, according to court statements by prosecutors.

Ibach’s attorney told the jury last week that while Ibach wanted to address his problem with Vaughn outside the party, he hadn’t planned on being surrounded by Vaughn and about four other men. His actions after that were in self defense, said defense attorney Joe Bisbiglia.

In the surveillance video played to jurors Friday, several cameras at a home on Ludwig Avenue showed Ibach pulling into the driveway in a burgundy car at about 12:45 p.m. There, he met with friend Joshua Cassidy, 21, who lived at the home, and Shyzaha Thorpe, 20, according to the video footage and court testimony.

The three were shown walking around and moving vehicles on the property before driving away in a light-colored car at about 1:17 p.m., leaving the BMW behind.

Cassidy and Thorpe were arrested four days later on allegations that they helped Ibach flee to a friend’s home in San Rafael and then subsequently hid Ibach’s car from authorities by driving it to a west Santa Rosa neighborhood and leaving it there. Both men pleaded no contest in their respective cases, court records show.

San Rafael Police Officer Carlos Maldonado told jurors he and his patrol partner spoke with Ibach at San Rafael’s Pickleweed Park, sometime around 2:30 p.m. that same afternoon. The officers approached Ibach, who gave them a fake name, when his partner recognized a woman he was with and decided to stop and speak with her.

Maldonado and his partner left sometime after, but received a police alert about 3 p.m. notifying local officers to be on the lookout for Ibach, a suspect in the stabbing.

After running a search of the name through DMV records, and seeing his photo, Maldonado realized he had just seen Ibach at the park, he said.

“The (alert) had a name, date of birth, height, weight and vehicle description,” Maldonado said. “There were similarities.”

Maldonado arrested Ibach about a half-mile away from the park later that day, he said.

Forensic Pathologist Kimi Verilhac also took the stand Friday afternoon, saying her examination of Vaughn’s body found deep slashes to Vaughn’s forearm, stomach and chest, the latter two which she believed to be fatal. Vaughn likely died within seconds, she said.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case on Tuesday, allowing Bisbiglia, the defense attorney, to present evidence and witnesses to the jury, Judge Christopher M. Honigsberg said. Closing arguments could be as early as Thursday.

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