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by Riverside COP WATCH
Friday, Feb. 06, 2004 at 2:34 PM
Attorneys for Kevin Cooper report that an ex-reporter told them that an ex-SBSD deputy said that he and others were ordered to plant evidence in this case.
Cooper's team reports new lead
WITNESS: An ex-reporter steers them to a man who says he planted evidence in the case.
12:07 AM PST on Thursday, February 5, 2004
By TIM GRENDA and JOE VARGO / The Press-Enterprise
The case of condemned killer Kevin Cooper took another twist Wednesday when his attorneys said they have found a man claiming to be a former San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who says he planted evidence to convict their client more than 20 years ago.
The man, Albert Anthony Ruiz, made the claim in 1997 to a former news reporter who had covered Cooper's trial, according to the reporter, Kristina Rebelo-Anderson.
Her sworn deposition was released Wednesday by Cooper's attorneys.
Kristina Rebelo-Anderson urges a man she identifed as Albert Anthony Ruiz to come forward.
Cooper, now 46, is scheduled for execution Tuesday for the slayings of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their daughter Jessica, 10, and neighbor boy Christopher Hughes, 11, who was spending the night at the Ryen home. Josh Ryen, then 8, survived the attack.
"He didn't do it," Ruiz reportedly said. "We were told to plant evidence."
The reporter's sworn deposition states that Ruiz said the Ryen-Hughes killings were a "hit on the wrong family" related to a cocaine trafficking ring that also involved local police.
Rebelo-Anderson covered the 1984-85 Cooper trial in San Diego for United Press International. She approached Cooper's defense team last week and said Ruiz made the statements during a chance meeting in 1997 at a San Diego car-stereo store.
On Wednesday, Rebelo-Anderson and representatives of several media outlets invited by the attorneys, attempted to contact Ruiz at the National City construction company where he now works in an effort to corroborate Rebelo-Anderson's statement.
Rebelo-Anderson and the reporters were directed by the company to a construction site. When the group arrived at the site, the Studio 264 hair salon, the reporters saw a man inside approach the salon's glass front door. Seeing Rebelo-Anderson and the media members, he fled out the back door and left at high speed in a pickup.
Moments later, Rebelo-Anderson's cell phone rang, she answered and said the caller was Ruiz. No one else present could verify the conversation. She refused requests by others at the scene to talk to the person on the phone.
On Wednesday night, a man answered a call to a cell phone number identified by Rebelo-Anderson as belonging to Ruiz. The man refused to comment and referred questions to Rebelo-Anderson.
Lanny Davis, the former White House counsel who is one of Cooper's attorneys, said that Ruiz's story should be enough to delay Cooper's execution to allow further investigation.
Cooper's prosecutors said Wednesday that they had never heard of Ruiz.
"The things you are telling me, I'm hearing for the first time," said San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney John Kochis. "To me it's an unsubstantiated rumor."
Ruiz said he used a different name when he was a deputy, but changed it slightly after leaving the department after the Cooper investigation, according to the deposition.
San Bernardino County sheriff's officials could not confirm Wednesday whether Ruiz ever worked for their department. A preliminary search of county personnel records showed no match, said spokesman Chip Patterson.
In her statement, Rebelo-Anderson also says that she contacted Cooper's former trial attorney, his appellate attorney and a defense investigator with the same story in October 2000.
San Bernardino County Deputy Public Defender David Negus, who defended Cooper during his trial, said Wednesday he does not remember hearing from Rebelo-Anderson.
"I don't remember being contacted in this way," Negus said. "I do think I'd remember something along those lines if it did happen."
Cooper's appellate attorney, Robert Amidon, and Amidon's private investigator, Paul Ingels, could not be reached Wednesday for comment on Rebelo-Anderson's claims.
Reach Tim Grenda at (909) 806-3056 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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