Witness reveals heated text message exchange in Palo Alto murder-arson trial

Jennifer Schipsi had planned to kick her boyfriend — the man accused of strangling her and setting her body ablaze — out of their Palo Alto home, according to deleted text messages police recovered from her iPhone.

A heated text message exchange between Schipsi, a 29-year-old real estate agent killed on Oct. 15, 2009, and her boyfriend, Bulos “Paul” Zumot, the 37-year-old owner of Da Hookah Spot charged with murder and arson in connection with her death, took center stage today in court.

Prosecutors claim that the couple had a history of domestic abuse and that Zumot killed Schipsi and then set their home on fire with her body inside.

Palo Alto police Sgt. Cornelius Maloney revealed a transcript of the couple's text message exchange in the early morning hours of Oct. 15, hours after the two had happily celebrated Zumot's 36th birthday at a restaurant in Sunnyvale.

The night had not ended pleasantly. On their way to Zumot's business in Palo Alto, the couple had gotten into an argument over a collection that a mutual friend had begun to reimburse them for the bill, an act that Zumot was against.

Once they reached Da Hookah Spot, Schipsi, upset and crying, decided she did not want to stay and headed home with a broken shoe to the couple's Addison Avenue cottage. Zumot stayed behind until about 2 a.m.

Schipsi's anger was reflected in the series of text messages she sent to Zumot after she arrived home that evening, many of which were deleted from both of their phones and later recovered by police.

She demanded that he “stay away” from her and return to the cottage the next morning only to give her a check for $11,200 that he owed her.

“You are nothing but a selfish cold-hearted ungrateful human being scam artist liar,” she wrote in one of the messages.

His response was, “Thanx (sic).”

Schipsi told Zumot to compensate her for furniture he had broken or destroyed, including a dresser, bed and painting. She told him to cancel a flight the two had planned for Palm Desert and ordered him to “vanish” from her life.

In another message, she wrote, “Don't ever threaten me again or I will seek ultimate justice.”

When she told him she would get police involved, Zumot responded with, “no police plz (sic).”

The two exchanged only a handful of messages the following day, the last one sent from Zumot shortly before 2 p.m. begging Schipsi to call him.

Prior to Maloney's testimony, defense attorney Mark Geragos told Superior Court Judge David Cena that he was concerned some of the text messages, including an exchange between Zumot and Schipsi's mother, that prosecutor Chuck Gillingham wanted to excise would give the jury a “skewed view.”

In one of those messages, Zumot wrote to Schipsi's mother that he was planning to propose to Schipsi the following weekend.

Geragos said making those texts inadmissible was a “monumental due process violation.”

Gillingham disagreed, saying most of the statements in the messages were hearsay.

The trial will continue Wednesday morning.


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