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Prosecutor attempts to cast doubt on Strong's alibi
Prosecutor William Katz of the Yuma County Attorney's Office chipped away at Preston Strong's alibi on Thursday – the day he was accused of killing a Yuma physician nearly five years ago.
During the trial, Katz called into question the recollection of one of the state's own witnesses as to the defendant's whereabouts.
Mindy Cordoba testified that she remembers Strong being at her family's bail bond office, McCurley Bail Bonds, on Nov. 1, 2007, the day Dr. Santinder Gill was murdered. Under questioning, she said that she didn't know when Strong got there, but that it was sometime after she came to work, which was about 11:30 a.m.
Cordoba said although Strong was there practically the entire day, he would leave periodically to go to his attorney's nearby office. When asked why she remembered him being there, she said that he had a court date the following day in an unrelated case. The last time Cordoba said she remembered seeing Strong was possibly sometime between 4 and 5 p.m. on Nov. 1.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Kristi Riggins, however, Cordoba provided another reason why she remembers Strong was there. She said her brother, Doyle McCurley, made a joke about being worried that the reason Strong was spending so much time in their office was because he was going to jump bail.
Bailbonds woman Lillian McCurley had also previously testified during the trial that Strong was at her family's business, which is across the street from the courthouse, for most of that day. Although he was already in custody, having been sentenced to three years in prison on unrelated theft charges, Strong was not arrested in connection with Gill's murder until Nov. 28, 2007.
Katz, in an attempt to cast doubt on her testimony, questioned Cordoba about some of the specifics of that day, such as how Strong had gotten to their office, if he had anything with him, what he was wearing, and what they talked about throughout the day. Cordoba, saying it was many years ago, had trouble recalling those details and answered many of the questions by saying she didn't remember.
Katz also alluded to the notion that Cordoba may have wanted to create an alibi for Strong, asking her why she went to the courthouse in June of 2010 to look at Strong's case file.
“Was it because you wanted to put Strong at your office during certain times?” Katz asked.
Cordoba testified that while she had not spoken to defense attorneys by then, she had already been interviewed by Yuma police on several occasions and had told them during each of those interviews that Strong was at their office on the day of Nov. 1, 2007. What police did with that information she didn't know.
Katz also focused his questioning on numerous phone calls between Cordoba and Strong's ex-girlfriend, Adriana Ozuna, that were made in the days following the murder. Katz asked if any of the phone calls, some of which were several minutes long, were about the Gill murder or about Ozuna being questioned by police or about a search warrant being served at her home.
“Not that I'm aware of,” Cordoba answered. “There were no discussions about Dr. Gill in any of those calls. Whenever you ask me I'm going to say no.”
Although she couldn't remember what they had spoken about during any of those calls, Cordoba said she and Ozuna had been friends for many years and spoke on the phone regularly.
The 62-year-old Gill was found dead inside his home at 4596 W. La Quinta Loop on Nov. 1, 2007. He had been suffocated and had blunt-force trauma to his head. A large sum of money was missing.
Strong has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of kidnapping, one count of armed robbery, one count of burglary, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted arson in the murder.
Instead of a trial by jury, Strong has opted for a bench trial, which means Yuma Superior Court Judge John Nelson will return the verdict.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.