Zumbado v. State, CR-89-21

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation615 So.2d 1223
Docket NumberCR-89-21
PartiesWilly Edward ZUMBADO, alias v. STATE.
Decision Date22 January 1993


The appellant, Willy Edward Zumbado, was convicted after a jury trial of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree (CC-88-288-A), in violation of § 13A-9-6, and of conspiracy to commit murder (CC-89-001), in violation of § 13A-4-3, Code of Alabama 1975. He was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on the conviction for possession of a forged instrument and to life in prison on the conviction for conspiracy to commit murder. He raises 10 issues on appeal.

At trial, the state's evidence tended to show the following facts. The appellant, using the name "Guy Casey," and John William Aderhold became acquainted around 1982. At that time, Aderhold owned a small general store and some other properties in Munford, Alabama, in Talladega County. In 1983, the appellant and Aderhold discussed the possibility of the appellant's purchasing all of Aderhold's property. At the time, however, Aderhold was involved in a divorce and the property could not be sold. Apparently, no other discussions regarding a possible sale took place until 1985, when Aderhold agreed to sell all his assets to the appellant.

In 1985, the appellant had a large hole dug at the end of the mobile home that he rented from Aderhold. He told Doris Faye Johnson, his girlfriend, that he intended to kill Aderhold and put him in the hole. 1 She told him that the body would be discovered. The appellant then stated that he would take Aderhold to Costa Rica and "get rid of him." He also told Johnson that he wanted Thelma Strickland, Aderhold's girlfriend, to go on the Costa Rica trip because, he said, she was "so dumb she wouldn't know anything or suspect anything." The appellant wanted Johnson to keep Strickland occupied on the trip.

In November 1985, the appellant, Aderhold, Strickland, Johnson, and Aderhold's sister, Julia Grace, went to Costa Rica for three weeks. The group flew from New Orleans to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where they spent the night. Then they proceeded to San Jose, Costa Rica, where they stayed at The Grand Hotel. They spent time sightseeing. The appellant took them to a sugar plantation and showed them a sugar refinery, where he said that he wanted Aderhold to work. They also went to a farm owned by the Alpizars, friends of the appellant. 2 The appellant paid for all their trip-related expenses.

When the group returned to Alabama from Costa Rica, Aderhold told Julia Grace and his brother, Travis Aderhold, that he was selling all his real and personal property to the appellant and was planning to move to Costa Rica. He also told Travis that the appellant had arranged for him to work at a sugar refinery for a salary of $100,000 a year plus $50,000 for expenses and that he would put the money he made in a bank and earn a high rate of interest. Travis last saw his brother the Sunday before he left for Costa Rica the second time.

On December 20, 1985, Aderhold and the appellant went to the office of William Lawrence, Aderhold's attorney, to draw up papers to transfer Aderhold's real property to the appellant. The bills of sale reflect a transfer from Aderhold to ABB, Inc. The property transfer was consummated that day.

On December 21, 1985, the appellant, Aderhold, Johnson, and Strickland left the United States for Costa Rica. The next day, the appellant called Kirk Stevens, a friend of Aderhold, an employee at Aderhold's store, and a neighbor of Aderhold and told him to inform Aderhold's sister of Aderhold's impending marriage to Thelma Strickland. The group again stayed at The Grand Hotel in San Jose. The appellant had Aderhold sign several blank pieces of hotel stationery, explaining to him that his signature was necessary to obtain visas. After traveling to the Punta Arenas area and to the Alpizar farm, the group returned to San Jose. Then the appellant and Aderhold returned to the Alpizar farm, from which they took a trip to a nearby river. When they returned to the farm, the appellant told Mr. Alpizar that he had found gold in the river. Johnson and Strickland then arrived at the farm and saw both the appellant and Aderhold.

The next day, the appellant and Aderhold returned to the river. The following day, the appellant walked up to the Alpizar house alone. He looked tired and was carrying a backpack. He told everyone that Aderhold had gone back to the United States, but he did not say how he had traveled. He told Strickland that Aderhold was taking care of some business for him and that she would see him in about 10 days. Then the appellant, Johnson, and Strickland went back to The Grand Hotel in San Jose.

The next day, the appellant, Johnson, and Strickland returned to the Alpizar farm. The appellant and Johnson went to the river while Strickland stayed at the farm. The appellant carried a backpack, a pick, an ax, some plastic garbage bags, and a long iron bar. Near the river, the appellant gave Johnson a .357 magnum pistol and told her to fire a warning shot if anyone came. While she stood guard, she heard a "chopping" sound and turned to see the appellant chopping a human leg into two pieces. She turned back around and was nauseated.

The following day, the appellant and Johnson returned to the river to an area that Johnson described as a "cascade of rocks." The appellant attempted to carry a large plastic bag containing something heavy up the cascade but was unable. He eventually dug a hole and buried the bag and its contents. He was able to carry a smaller plastic bag up the cascade of rocks and he buried that bag and its contents. The next day, the appellant returned to the area and, after returning all the tools he had left there the day before, he returned to the Alpizar farm. The appellant, Johnson, and Strickland returned to The Grand Hotel in San Jose before their departure for the United States. Strickland kept asking the appellant about Aderhold's whereabouts.

As the appellant, Johnson, and Strickland were departing San Jose by plane, a stewardess and the pilot asked where the fourth person in their party was. The appellant told the stewardess that Aderhold had diarrhea and that he would join them later. The appellant subsequently put something in an empty seat on the plane, apparently to indicate that Aderhold was sitting there. Aderhold did not get on the plane, and Johnson testified that she had not seen him since he went to the river with the appellant.

The party flew from San Jose to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. In Honduras, the appellant indicated that he did not want the customs officials to notice that they had four passports and only three people in their party. They spent the night in Honduras. The appellant changed their flights so that they would go through Mexico City, Mexico. At the airport in Honduras, Strickland asked the appellant where Aderhold was. He replied, "Didn't you see William on the plane?" However, when she turned to look, she saw only another plane taking off. The appellant kept all their passports because, he said, it would be easier for him to communicate with the officials because he knew the language.

The appellant proposed marriage to Strickland on Aderhold's behalf while the group was in Mexico City. While there, the appellant had Strickland sign some blank stationery, again under the guise of obtaining visas. At his direction, some pieces were signed "Thelma Strickland" and some were signed "Thelma Aderhold." He told Johnson that he wanted to take Strickland back to Costa Rica and "get rid of her." The appellant wanted Strickland to take care of all Aderhold's business and told Johnson that Strickland would be the "last loose end." Johnson destroyed the stationery that Strickland had signed. The group flew from Mexico City to Houston, then to New Orleans, and eventually returned to Munford.

Two to three days after they returned to Munford, the appellant borrowed a typewriter from Kirk Stevens. He typed letters to Julia Grace, William Lawrence, Thelma Strickland, and Kirk Stevens on the blank stationery that the appellant had had Aderhold sign. Johnson proofread some of the letters for the appellant. The letters, purportedly from Aderhold, were on The Grand Hotel stationery. The envelopes were stamped with Honduran stamps that had not been postmarked. The appellant placed the letters in a large brown envelope. He gave the envelope to Strickland and asked her to deliver them. The letters to Grace and Strickland were typed on the typewriter that Stevens had loaned the appellant, but the letters to Lawrence and Stevens had not been typed on that machine.

William Lawrence received a letter dated January 8, 1986, purportedly from Aderhold, that the appellant had written and typed. It requested that Lawrence draft a power of attorney, enabling Strickland to conduct Aderhold's business and affairs. Lawrence drafted the document and gave it to Strickland. The appellant told her that he was going to take the document to Aderhold in New York where Aderhold was conducting some business. At the appellant's direction, Johnson traced Aderhold's signature onto the power of attorney and returned the document to Strickland. He and Strickland then took the document to Lawrence's office and told him that Aderhold had signed it in their presence. Instead of notarizing the signature, Lawrence prepared a "witness page" for the document. Strickland and the appellant signed the page, as witnesses for Aderhold's signature.

Julia Grace received a letter dated January 8, 1986, purportedly from Aderhold. It was brought to her by the appellant, Johnson, and Strickland. The letter stated that Aderhold had married Strickland and that she was now using the name "Thelma...

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