Suspects in Pinyon Pines triple murder case return to court

Suspects in Pinyon Pines triple murder case return to court

INDIO, Calif. - Robert Pape and Cristin Smith were back in court Tuesday morning at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Both men have been charged with three counts of murder with special enhancements of multiple murders and personal use of a firearm against a victim.  The charges stem from the deaths of 18-year old Rebecca Friedli, her mother Vickie Friedli, 53, and her mother's boyfriend, 55-year-old Jon Hayward, who were killed at their Pinyon Pines home in September of 2006.

Pape was in court for an arraignment hearing but that was delayed until April 16.  He's still being represented by a public defender who requested no video be taken of his client while he's still in his orange prison jumpsuit; he wants him dressed in a suit and tie.  "People start to look at the individual that's in the jail outfit as somebody who's already been convicted so it's always a concern in a case like this, that's serious," said John Patrick Dolan.  Dolan was brought on as lead counsel for Smith, joining James Cicalese as representation for Smith.  

Smith's preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 25. He pleaded not guilty to all charges last Wednesday. He could face life in prison.  "The defense requested the continuance, I don't know exactly why maybe they just need more time to prepare for the next hearing," said John Hall, the public information officer for the Riverside County district attorney.

For the family of the victims who've waited more than seven years for movement on this case, every day without justice takes a toll.  "We have faith in the justice system, and although we are disappointed that the arraignment and the hearing are postponed, we're confident progress is being made in this case," said Katie Hayward, the daughter of Jon Hayward. 

While both men face the same charges, they face different punishments if found guilty.  Pape was eighteen during the crime, which makes him eligible for the death penalty if found guilty.  Smith, on the other hand, was seventeen.  Even though the district attorney's trying him as an adult, his worst punishment is life in prison. "So they're kind of progressing down different paths, it's the same case we're going to have on both of them, at some point we may join them back up," said Hall. 

All of this also tough on those close to the suspects who maintain their innocence.  Several of Pape's family and friends stood outside the courtroom, holding hands and praying. Meanwhile, Smith's attorney continues to point to the army Ranger's record of service. "He is well-respected in the military community, and the charges against him are just completely inconsistent with the character of the individual," said Dolan.

Smith is part of the U.S. Army Rangers 75th Regiment.

The regiment released this statement to our stations Monday night:

"The 75th Ranger Regiment is aware that Sergeant Cristin Smith has been charged with a triple homicide in Riverside County, California. We are fully cooperating with the civilian legal system. At this time, the 75th Ranger Regiment does not plan to take any action until this case comes to a conclusion in a Riverside County court."

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