Crime

Retired CHP chief, other family of convicted rapist Spencer Scarber to stand trial for allegedly helping him flee to Mexico

Attorney Marshall Hodgkins, left, talks to Kyle Scarber as Kyle’s wife, Gail, stands between them in a hallway outside a Fresno courtroom in 2013. In the background is Crystal Reynoso, one of the Scarbers’ daughters. The three will face charges that they helped Spencer Scarber flee from a rape case.
Attorney Marshall Hodgkins, left, talks to Kyle Scarber as Kyle’s wife, Gail, stands between them in a hallway outside a Fresno courtroom in 2013. In the background is Crystal Reynoso, one of the Scarbers’ daughters. The three will face charges that they helped Spencer Scarber flee from a rape case. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

Convicted rapist Spencer Scarber’s parents and sister will stand trial for allegedly concocting a fake crime scene at their Squaw Valley home and helping him escape to Mexico to avoid prosecution, a judge ruled Friday in Fresno County Superior Court.

In making his ruling, Judge W. Kent Hamlin had harsh words for Spencer’s father, Kyle Scarber, a retired California Highway Patrol assistant chief for the Fresno area.

Hamlin said Kyle Scarber lied when he called authorities on the morning of Dec. 12, 2012, to report his son was missing – and possibly kidnapped – when he knew Spencer Scarber already had crossed into Mexico.

Hamlin also said the evidence suggested that Kyle Scarber staged a crime scene outside his Squaw Valley home to make it appear that his son had been kidnapped.

In addition, Hamlin said, the evidence suggests that Kyle Scarber drove his son to either Selma or Kingsburg on the night of Dec. 11, 2012, to rendezvous with his wife, Gail Scarber, and daughters Crystal Reynoso and Stephanie Scarber Walker.

Kyle Scarber turned over his son to his wife and Reynoso, who then drove him to Mexico, the judge said. After driving into Mexico at 3:24 a.m. the next day, Gail Scarber and Reynoso walked back out of Mexico and into California, leaving their car with Spencer Scarber, the judge said. Gail Scarber and Reynoso were then picked up by Walker that morning at the San Ysidro border crossing, Hamlin said.

Hamlin’s recital of the evidence punctuated three days of testimony in which state attorney general prosecutors Heather Gimle, Michael Canzoneri and David Lowe picked apart the defendants’ claim that they were not guilty.

The judge ordered Kyle and Gail Scarber, as well as Reynoso, to stand trial on felony charges of being accessories, and conspiring and aiding in Spencer Scarber’s failure to appear in court for his rape trial, which ended with him being convicted in absentia.

Gail Scarber faces additional felony charges of forgery for allegedly manufacturing a false birth certificate for her son and forging a seal of the Orange County Recorder's Office.

In addition, Kyle Scarber is charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor, for reporting his son missing after the family’s car reportedly crossed into Mexico. Walker is not a defendant in the case.

While in Mexico, Spencer Scarber dyed his hair, grew a goatee, used fake identification and disguised himself in hopes he would not be found, authorities said.

On Dec. 14, 2012, a jury deliberated two hours before convicting him in absentia of five felony charges of rape, burglary and robbery stemming from an attack on a 35-year-old housekeeper at a neighbor’s home. Two months later, Mexican authorities captured him in Acapulco. He was brought back to Fresno and sentenced to 35 years to life in prison.

Kyle and Gail Scarber and Reynoso have pleaded not guilty. In past court appearances, they have said Spencer didn’t get a fair trial and that local law enforcement is out to get them.

In court Friday, defense lawyers John Sarsfield, who defended Kyle Scarber; Robert Lamanuzzi, who represented Reynoso; and Roger Nuttall, who defended Gail Scarber, argued that Spencer Scarber had admitted to sheriff’s detectives that he staged the crime scene. Spencer Scarber also told detectives that he had hitchhiked from his Squaw Valley home to Mexico.

The defense lawyers also said there was no witness, video or photograph to show Gail Scarber and Reynoso drove Spencer Scarber into Mexico or any witness to show that Gail Scarber made the false birth certificate for her son.

The evidence, Nuttall said, was only that she possessed the false birth certificates.

“Admittedly, we have what might best be called a set of unusual circumstances,” Nuttall told the judge. “But there is nothing to suggest criminal.”

But Hamlin said the prosecution has “a very strong circumstantial case” against the defendants, starting with Kyle Scarber lying to Fresno County sheriff’s detectives when he said he last saw his son at the Squaw Valley home around 1:30 a.m. Dec. 12, 2012.

Homeland Security records show the Scarber family car entered Mexico at 3:24 a.m. that day. (Under normal driving conditions, it would take at least six hours to get to the Mexico border from Squaw Valley.)

The judge also said telephone records from Kyle Scarber’s and Walker’s cellphones suggest that the three defendants were part of a conspiracy to take Spencer to Mexico.

“It is quite apparent there was no kidnapping,” the judge said.

The lies Spencer and Kyle Scarber told to detectives, the judge said, were “an attempt to cover up this effort.”

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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