Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Self-Defense — Or Not?
Kari Abbey
Kari Abbey
In September 2010, detective Kari Abbey (inset) of Stanislaus County, California, was evicting one of her parents' tenants, Rita Elias (pictured), 31, from their rental property, when Elias reportedly came out of her home armed with a tree branch and brandishing a semi-automatic handgun. Abbey opened fire killing Elias. Abbey's story was corroborated by her husband Bennie Taylor, who witnessed the shooting. It seemed an open and shut case of self-defense, until another witness came forward and contested Abbey's version of events. Further investigation revealed that Abbey, Taylor and Abbey's father, James Abbey, routinely assaulted and strong armed their tenants. Any complaints were allegedly met by disbelieving deputies who hugged Abbey and went on their way. She even used fellow officers to deliver eviction notices, allegedly on county time.

A search of the couple's home in March 2011, turned up counterfeit bills, bullet-proof vests taken from Abbey's last job for police in Hayward, California, syringes, steroids, loaded guns stashed all over the house, despite there being a six year old and a 20 month old living in the home, and a marijuana growing operation. Also reports surfaced that Abbey may have had a grudge against Elias, that Elias was brandishing a BB gun when she was killed not a semi-automatic, and possible evidence that made it seem unlikely that Elias was being evicted. Abbey was charged with second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the off-duty shooting of Elias. In December the judge dismissed the murder and manslaughter charges against Abbey, though she still faces felony charges of conspiracy to commit unlawful evictions, embezzlement from the Sheriff's Department, marijuana cultivation and child endangerment. Her husband and father are being charged separately with illegal entry and marijuana cultivation.
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