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[January 01, 2013]
Woman accused in 2011 Modesto murder
MODESTO, Jan 01, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A 31-year-old woman was in custody without bail this week as she faces charges of murder and arson for her alleged involvement in the shooting death of a man whose body was found in a burning west Modesto home in 2011.
Nicole Marie Pappas is accused of starting the fire that burned the house in the 1700 block of John Street with Guadalupe Mario Tubera still inside, according to documents filed Dec. 13 in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
The fire occurred sometime after 1 p.m. on May 4, 2011, and authorities allege Pappas started the fire to cover up a crime scene after Clinton Curtis Wilson shot Tubera inside the home. Wilson is accused of shooting Tubera over stolen marijuana and a laptop computer.
Wilson, 34, has been in custody since May 7, 2011, as he awaits prosecution. Pappas was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail on Dec. 13, a year and a half after the fire and killing.
An investigator says Pappas was deceptive when she was first interviewed, and new information in the case has revealed Pappas' role in Tubera's death, according to an arrest affidavit filed with the court.
Tubera was a member of the Deep South Side Nortenos and listed on a gang injunction that restricted his activities inside a designated south Modesto neighborhood. Tubera, however, had told authorities he was now a gang "dropout," no longer working on behalf of the Nortenos.
In the year before his death, Tubera had been working as a confidential informant for a Modesto police officer, according to the affidavit written by Kirk Bunch, an investigator with the Stanislaus County district attorney's office.
Tubera had told the Modesto police officer that Wilson had threatened to kill him because Wilson suspected Tubera had stolen drugs from him, according to the affidavit.
In October, a witness with knowledge of the killing and the fire told Bunch that a bag with about a pound of marijuana and a laptop had been stolen from Wilson's mobile home parked outside the John Street home. The witness's name was redacted from the affidavit.
The house on John Street was vacant and being remodeled, and Wilson watched the property with the owner's permission. The witness told Bunch that Wilson was angry over the theft and later believed Tubera had stolen the drugs and the laptop.
Wilson initially told investigators he didn't know Tubera. When he was arrested two days later at Rosalinda's Gentlemen's Club in Jamestown, Wilson admitted he knew Tubera.
He also told investigators that Tubera had admitted to committing the theft and returned some of the stolen property. Wilson said Tubera showed up at the John Street home uninvited on May 4, 2011.
Wilson said Tubera chased him around the home with an electric chain saw before he shot Tubera, according to the affidavit. He told investigators he didn't know how the fire started, only saying that he threw carpet over Tubera's body. He didn't mention Pappas in that interview.
The witness who came forward in October revealed that Wilson told Pappas about shooting Tubera and trying to start a fire at the home before he left. Wilson was afraid the fire never started, so Pappas volunteered to return to the John Street home and lit debris inside on fire, according to the affidavit.
In the meantime, Wilson stayed in a motel room, rented by Pappas, on Kansas Avenue in west Modesto. Bunch wrote in the affidavit that Pappas rented the room to conceal Wilson's whereabouts.
Stanislaus County forensic pathologist Sungook Baik conducted an autopsy on Tubera's body. After learning the new information allegedly linking Pappas to the murder, Bunch questioned Baik about his autopsy report.
Baik told Bunch that Tubera was still breathing on his own when the fire started.
Firefighters who put out the flames at the John Street home discovered Tubera's body inside. During a search of the crime scene, investigators found a small-caliber shell casing near Tubera's body. Tubera's head had an obvious head injury.
When Wilson initially was detained and questioned shortly after Tubera's death, Bunch says they found Wilson carrying six .22-caliber bullets, five small unknown caliber bullets and one small, unknown caliber shell casing.
Pappas is scheduled to appear in court for a continued arraignment hearing Jan. 9. Wilson is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing Jan. 28.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.
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