Murder case dismissed after feds withhold evidence, witnesses from Stanislaus DA

Final Suspect Arrested in Alleged Modesto Hells Angels Meth Ring

As part of an investigation last year by federal and local authorities into an alleged drug ring involving the Modesto Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, authorities developed new information in a 5-year-old homicide that led to an arrest.

But earlier this month, after a preliminary hearing had already begun, Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson dropped the murder case against Jeffrey Velthoen.

The the FBI and the US Attorney’s office would not hand over evidence and witnesses essential to the prosecution of Velthoen, Emerson told Judge Linda McFadden on June 1, according to a transcript of the hearing.


“We did have significant meetings with the Federal Bureau, FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Emerson said in court. “They are not going to at this time make the evidence and witnesses available to us, both for the prosecution evidence that’s inculpatory as to the defendant and some Brady information about a second shooter. So our office based on that is going to move to dismiss the case.”

A spokeswoman from the US Attorney’s Office said officials on the case declined to comment.

“Brady information” refers to the Brady doctrine, a pretrial discovery rule that requires prosecutors to turn over to the defense all exculpatory evidence that could exonerate a defendant.

The preliminary hearing, which determines if there is enough evidence to justify the charges, had begun in mid-April when Velthoen’s attorney, Percy Martinez, began asking for the information from federal investigators that led to his client’s arrest.

Martinez didn’t comment about the case except to refer The Bee to court transcripts on the day of the dismissal.

Velthoen was charged with the murder in the February 2015 death of Steven Losey.

A bystander found Losey, 25, suffering from gunshot wounds in a pickup after seeing him driving erratically, then pulling off the road near the intersection of Santa Fe Avenue and Berkeley Road, north of Turlock. Losey later died at a hospital.

The case was originally only handled by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Velthoen was a suspect from the beginning but there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute at the time, Sheriff’s Detective Cory Brown said Tuesday.

Brown said even he is not privy to the information the FBI and US attorney’s office have because he is not part of the gang task force, which includes the FBI, that obtained the arrest warrant for Velthoen.

The District Attorney’s Office investigator assigned to the case that is on the task force, Alex Bettis, said he could not comment.

The feds’ involvement in the homicide came as part of a year-long investigation into an alleged drug ring involving hig- ranking members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club. New evidence of Velthoen’s suspected role in the murder surfaced during that investigation and led to his arrest in October. Authorities said Velthoen is a Hells Angels associate.

The Club’s president, Randy Picchi, his wife, the vice president, secretary and three others were charged federally with drug and weapons related charges in June and September of 2019.

An affidavit in support of a criminal complaint against four of the defendants shows that much of the evidence in the drug case was developed from wiretaps on phones of Picchi and his wife.

Emerson wouldn’t say if the information about Velthoen or a possible second shooter came from that or similar wiretaps or if any of the witnesses he needed to testify are defendants in the federal drug case.

“It’s an ongoing investigation with the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office so I can’t comment,” he said.

Emerson did discuss the evidence that was presented during the preliminary hearing before he dropped the charges.

He said when the bystanders found Losey he was bleeding profusely from the leg where a bullet hit an artery.

A 911 dispatcher told the bystanders to ask who shot him and Losey said ‘Jeff’ and something that sounded very close to ‘Velthoen.’

“He gives a dying declaration of who shot him,” Emerson said.

About 20 minutes after that Velthoen showed up at a hospital in Merced with a gunshot wound to his hand.

Emerson said investigators interviewed Velthoen, who told them he and another man met Losey over the sale of a watch and that the other man began firing with two different guns, hitting both him and Losey.

Evidence shows Losey was shot by two different firearms; a 9 mm round hit him in the leg and pellets from a shotgun hit his hand.

Emerson said investigators could not determine what firearm Velthoen was shot with because it was a through-and-through wound.

Velthoen gave investigators a name for the man he alleges shot them both but said he had no address or contact information for him. Emerson said it was a common name and investigators couldn’t locate anyone matching his description.

Emerson said at the June 1 hearing, “I do anticipate at some point there’ll be a refile, but it’s going to be when the information is provided (by federal authorities).”

The federal drug and weapons case is ongoing.

Picchi, his wife Tina Picchi, along with Micheal Pack and Michael Miza, are charged with conspiracy to distributed and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

The club’s vice president, Michael Shafer, is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana and heroin and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug trafficking offense.

Club secretary Patrick Gonzales is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

And member Ricky Blackwell is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

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Source: The Modesto Bee by ERIN TRACY