District Attorney Investigator Mike Franzen testified in the matter of Jennifer Kendall Wednesday afternoon.
The preliminary hearing began in Department 7 but Judge Douglas C. Phimister quickly told counsel that the hearing was being moved to Department 2 and that Judge Daniel B. Proud would preside over the hearing. Before leaving, he vacated the bench warrant for Kendall’s arrest after failing to appear at the previous preliminary hearing due to allegedly having a nervous breakdown.
After transferring courtrooms, prosecutor Dale Gomes submitted documents as evidence and called Franzen to the stand. Franzen, who has been a sworn peace officer for 20 years and an investigator for the DA’s Office for four years, three of which were focused on child abduction, had been assigned to the Kendall case in August 2011. Kendall had allegedly kidnapped her son, Charlie.
“I was contacted by Kevin Chase, the father, by phone,” Franzen said. Chase informed Franzen there was a custody battle and he had been awarded sole custody of Charlie. Chase told Franzen that Kendall had “not been showing up to court” for the matter.
Franzen began the investigation, querying databases for information on Kendall. He discovered the now-33-year-old woman lived in Grizzly Flat and the most recent order from the Sacramento Superior Court regarding custody of Charlie was not signed by a judge. After validating the order with the court, he went to Kendall’s last known residence in early September.
There, he found a business card stuck in the door by a detective from the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. “It didn’t look like anyone was living there,” he said, but noted that there were belongings inside. He was told by neighbors that Kendall had bought the house from her father, Ronald.
Franzen’s next step was to call Mindstorm Creative in Sacramento, owned by Ron Kendall. He received no answer, but the voicemail had options for both Ron and Jennifer Kendall, Franzen said. He left messages for both.
Soon after, Ron called back. “He was aware of the court battle but didn’t know where she was,” Franzen said. No new address or phone number was known.
But, shortly after speaking to Ron, Jennifer Kendall called Franzen. “We didn’t get into great detail as far as the background of the case,” Franzen said of the call. The investigator told Kendall that she needed to comply with the court order granting full custody to Chase. It had been April 2011 when Chase last saw Charlie.
Kendall, however, said it was for good reason: She claimed Chase was a danger and that she had made a report to Child Protective Services. Franzen replied that a family court judge would not grant custody to an abuser. Kendall, however, had been told by CPS and the Sheriff’s Office that Chase should not have Charlie.
A call to CPS verified that Kendall had made a report, but had not followed up on it. There was no pending investigation by CPS and Veronica Flores, who was assigned to the matter, was just about to close the case.
Franzen called Kendall back. She was adamant that she would not let Chase see their son. Franzen said he warned Kendall that she could face child abduction charges if she did not comply, and she replied she would call him back with her decision, Franzen said.
Kendall did not call back, prompting the investigator to try to physically find the woman who had seemingly disappeared. After a few dead ends, an e-mail from Kendall appeared in Franzen’s inbox. The e-mail, he said, explained that Kendall had spoken with attorneys, who said she did not need to comply with the orders, given the circumstances.
Replying to the e-mail returned a notification that the e-mail address was not valid. A court order to Gmail revealed the address had been created and canceled that same day. The next tactic was to subpoena cell phone records. Although he requested a month’s worth of records, he received just under a month, from September to early October 2011. The phone, similar to the e-mail, had been canceled that day.
“It seemed like she wanted to disconnect, to go into hiding,” Franzen told the court.
The cell phone records did give one clue to her whereabouts. The cell towers used for the calls to Franzen were in Spokane, Wash.
After contacting authorities in Washington, Franzen found photos on Facebook of Kendall with her mother, Cherie, and noticed a distinctive roof. Franzen had discovered that Cherie Kendall lived in Otis Orchards in Washington, and a Google satellite photo showed the same distinctive roof.
Authorities in Washingon surveilled the residence.
The surveillance then struck gold on April 9, when a DirectTV installer came out of the residence. The detective, Franzen said, showed the installer a photo of Kendall and Charlie, who the installer positively identified.
Chase was contacted, and told he needed to get the court order verified in both Sacramento and Spokane. Chase, with his fiancé and father, verified it in Sacramento and headed to Spokane, where it was further verified. They met with the Spokane detective and a judge ordered them to retrieve Charlie. After a court hearing, Charlie was given back to Chase. Kendall was arrested.
Defense attorney Tom Johnson then began his questioning, asking whether Franzen was aware that a parent could take a child if they “reasonably believed” there to be a danger. Franzen affirmed he was.
Johnson then asked about how much of a background check Franzen had done on Chase, with Franzen indicating that a thorough background search had not been done, but a Sacramento County judge had determined him fit for full custody of Charlie.
A hearing had been held regarding the “potential danger at the hands of Chase,” Johnson said, and that both Kendall and Chase testified. One incident of physical abuse had been documented at the hearing, Johnson said, and Chase was to attend six months of anger management. But, a court had denied a restraining order on insufficient evidence.
“Didn’t Ms. Kendall tell you…’Investigator, I am afraid of Mr. Chase?’ That there had been physical violence?” Johnson asked.
Franzen answered that she had, and that she was afraid for her son, but the court made the custody order in spite of that. Chase had taken the anger management course and complied with the order so that he would be able to see his son, but Franzen had not spoken with his counselor. Johnson claimed that Chase had been physically and verbally abusive during counseling, but Franzen was not aware of this.
Johnson then spoke to Proud about the March 30, 2011, hearing regarding whether Chase was a danger, and how multiple laws allow the belief that child is in danger as a complete defense.
Proud, however, noted the current court orders and that Chase had admitted his problems at the custody hearing, and that the restraining order was denied. He found there was sufficient evidence to continue with the case, setting an arraignment date for Nov. 16 at 8:30 a.m. in his department.
After the hearing, Johnson said he and Kendall were “disappointed. We established that Mr. Chase was abusive… I don’t understand why the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office is doing this. This is a family court issue.”