One woman pleads guilty, another is set for arraignment for local man's murder
By Jessica De Nova/KTVL.com
YREKA, Calif.-Amber Lubbers pled guilty to a count of accessory after the fact for murder, while her former stepsister, Patricia MacCallum, maintained her innocence and is set for arraignment for the murder of her husband, Christopher MacCallum of Medford.
The preliminary trial for both women began Thursday morning in Department One of the Siskiyou County Courthouse, but quickly turned into a single preliminary hearing for Patricia when Amber decided to plead guilty. Present to witness the turn of events were friends and family of Christopher, Patricia and Amber.
Amber's deal was a 16 month cap on the usual three year imprisonment for the charge against her, in exchange for her honest testimony during Patricia's preliminary hearing, regarding the murder of Christopher MacCallum in a campsite near the Applegate River in rural Siskiyou County, California.
Amber was the only witness to make it to the stand on Thursday. She told the story of how since Sep. 2011, she and Patricia planned to murder Christopher and "make it look like an accident." Lubbers said there were two plans laid out, both involving taking Chris to a campsite by the Applegategate River, picked out by Amber and agreed upon by Patricia.
The first, was to intoxicate Christopher with alcohol, enough so that when they convinced him to cross the river, he would fall in.
The second, and the plan they ultimately attempted, was to tie one end of a rope to Christopher, the other, to his wife, with the excuse that she needed help crossing as a result of a broken foot she suffered during her time in the army in Texas. They agreed to tug on the rope as Chris crossed, causing him to fall in.
Lubbers stated that the women did attempt the second plan, and said Christopher was "iffy" about crossing, but Lubbers claimed she couldn't bring herself to pull the rope, so only Patricia made the attempt. The plan failed, according to Lubbers, and only angered Christopher.
The two women and Christopher returned to the campsite, Christopher fell asleep in the tent and the women discussed his murder.
At one point, according to Amber, Patricia came up with the idea of "rolling him in the tent, tying him up and rolling him into the water."
Amber claims to have asked Patricia, "Why don't we just leave him there?"
To which, according to Amber's testimony, Patricia replied, "He's not coming home with me."
When Amber and Patricia took their conversation to the car, Amber said Patricia headed to the trunk from which she got a handgun and shot Christopher while he slept in the tent. She said Patricia used the clip in the gun, and returned for the second clip Amber was holding, to empty it out onto Christopher.
The women proceeded to wrap Christopher in the tent, secured the body and bundle with the rope they had used earlier by the river and kicked him down the embankment.
The prosecution finished questioning Lubbers and the defense proceeded with the cross-examination until 5 p.m.
Friday, the lead detective in the case, Sgt. James Randall, and a "friend with benefits" of Patricia, Jeremiah Hills, both took the stand.
Sgt. Randall identified the scene of the crime and later explained what was discovered by the autopsy.
The victim's corpse was riddled with eight, perhaps nine, bullet holes.
One bullet severed Christopher's spinal cord and two pierced his heart. It was impossible to tell which of those three shots killed him.
The tent the victim's body was found in had 12 bullet holes.
Sgt. Randall explained that two bullets were found lodged in Christopher's body, one fragmented in his wrist, the other, intact, in his right shoulder.
A 15th bullet was discovered in the gun case.
During the investigation, a box of ammunition was discovered in Patricia's possession, matching the make and caliber of the shots discovered in MacCallum's body and of the shells on the crime scene.
That box, according to Sgt. Randall, was short 15 shots.
Lubbers said the gun was thrown in the Applegate River, near the campsite.
The water conditions are too dangerous right now to send in a dive team, but investigators said they'll go when the time is right. "I know that the investigation is ongoing and we want to recover that piece of evidence so we're not gonna forget about it," said Siskiyou County District Attorney, Kirk Andrus.
The second witness, Jeremiah Hills, labeled himself "a friend with benefits" of Patricia's. He said Christopher was aware of Hills' relationship with his wife, because Christopher and Patricia had an "open relationship."
Hills told News 10, "She had just moved into a brand new apartment and didn't have the money to pay for it and he wasn't going to pay for it if he didn't live with her."
According to Hills, when Christopher moved back in with Patricia, "She felt forced into it."
Hills decided to step out of the picture after Christopher and Patricia were back together in Sep., but he recalled a heated argument between the two after which, "She said she wanted him gone." Hills clarified, Patricia meant "dead."
At the end of Friday's hearing, Patricia MacCallum's charges were murder in the first degree, assault with a deadly weapon and corporal injury to a spouse, but there was an ammendment made to the first count.
"Coming out the judge also found the allegation, we call it an enhancement," said D.A. Andrus.
"It was the only thing that changed from the time that we entered the hearing to the time that we came out, aside from Ms. Lubbers pleading guilty and testifying," said Andrus.
D.A. Andrus added, "In California, first degree murder is punishable by 25 to life."
The murder charge is enumerated, meaning, more time can be added. According to D.A. Andrus, if a firearm was used in the crime, 10 years can be added. If it's discharged, 20 more can go on. Finally, discharging and causing great bodily injury or death, can add 25 more years.
"So they're doing B, C, and D, because she did all three of them, but of course, the greatest one is 25 to life and that's the one that we'd go to trial on," said Andrus.
If found guilty, Patricia MacCallum would spend a long time in prison, "So the main sentence for count one, would now be 50 to life, if we are able to prove the firearm, which we believe the evidence will show very clearly," said the District Attorney.
With the preliminary trial now over Patricia's arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 19. at 8:30 a.m. in the Siskiyou County Courthouse. Andrus explained, "At that time, the new charges will be read to her, the charges that come out of this hearing and, uh, the opportunity then would be for her to set a trial date and exercise her right to a speedy trial." The judge will ensure Patricia understands the charges against her. If she pleads not guilty, she has the right to trial within 60 days of her arraignment. A guilty plea, will take her straight to a sentencing trial.