Expert who examined pipe bomb suspect's computer testifies

March 14, 2011 9:33:02 PM PDT
When a specialist examined a computer officials believed belonged to Hillsdale High School pipe bomb suspect Alexander Youshock in 2009, he found, among other files, a partially deleted document describing how to make pipe bombs and a graphic with text describing Youshock's hate of the high school, the specialist testified today.

Police Sgt. Alan Lee, of the Silicon Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory in Menlo Park, testified in Redwood City today that he began examining contents of a hard drive reportedly belonging to Youshock on Aug. 25, 2009, one day after Youshock allegedly set off explosives at the campus.

Youshock, who is now 18, is on trial for two counts of attempted murder, one count of using explosives in an act of terrorism, and other charges related to the two pipe bombs he allegedly set off as classes began at about 8 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2009.

Prosecutors allege that Youshock went to the school intending to kill his former chemistry teacher, bringing with him homemade pipe bombs, a Samurai sword and a chainsaw he nicknamed "Collie," referring to Columbine High School, the site of the infamous 1999 massacre.

Lee testified that he found on Youshock's hard drive part of a document that had been deleted and appeared to be a fragment of instructions to create a pipe bomb.

Lee read from near the end of the document, which said, "So that's practically how to make a pipe bomb."

Also found on the hard drive was an image of a DVD believed to have been created at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2009, the morning of the incident, Lee testified.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti asked that contents of the DVD be shown to the courtroom.

On the DVD, titled "Blender Renders!," there was a menu screen with various titles that, when clicked on, opened several violent animations. Titles included, "The Gilbert's Head Shooting Range," "Hangman," "Blender With Green Screen," and "The Cliff."

In one of the animations, an animated character is at a shooting range, shooting the same picture over and over. The screen then shows the words, "Until death do you part," and the picture of a man.

In another animation, a character is being pushed backward by other characters with shields, and a narrated voice can be heard. The narrator says, "You have refused to obey my powers. You have refused to submit your being to me. Now you belong to the abyss."

On Wednesday, San Mateo police Detective Rick Decker read during his testimony similar words from a handwritten manifesto that had been found hidden inside a stereo speaker in Youshock's bedroom.

"'You had your chance to avoid this day, but you chose to oppress me. Now it is my turn to be the oppressor,'" Decker read aloud in his testimony.

Lee said in today's testimony that he found on the hard drive two receipts for bomb materials, dated May 10 and May 18, 2009. The May 10 receipt was from the online bidding website eBay for charcoal powder, and the May 18 receipt was from the online retailer website Amazon for fireworks fuses, Lee testified.

In addition, Lee found a graphic in data collected from the hard drive that had the words, "F--k you Hillsdale. I hated you from the first day to the last," and a depiction of a middle finger, according to Lee's testimony.

Lee testified that he believed the graphic was saved on Dec. 19, 2008.

Along with Lee, the court heard testimony today from several officers and forensic specialists who were at the school or in contact with Youshock soon after he allegedly set off the explosives.

Kevin Raffaelli, who was a San Mateo police captain at the time of the incident, testified today that Youshock was cooperative after he was put in cuffs the morning of Aug. 24.

"I told him I was 52 years old and my intent was not to die that day, and neither were my officers," he testified.

"I said, 'How about I get you out of here?' And he said, 'Sounds good to me,'" Raffaelli said.

Guidotti asked Niki Zamora, a forensics specialist for San Mateo County who also testified today, to explain various items Zamora analyzed following the 2009 attempted bombing.

During her testimony, Zamora put on gloves and demonstrated what she found from various items that were located near Youshock at Hillsdale High School.

Zamora showed jurors three lighters she found in the tactile vest that Raffaelli testified he had cut from Youshock's body with a knife. She also showed the chainsaw that was found at the school the morning of the incident, along with a black hooded sweatshirt and dark gray pants that had two brown rubber door stoppers in each of the two front pockets.

Zamora also examined an empty backpack, an empty guitar bag made of canvas with part of the inside cut out, and a face shield similar to something a painter would use, all found at the school the day of Youshock's alleged crimes.

Fingerprint specialist Rommel Soriano, who also works for San Mateo County, testified today that while prints matching Youshock's could be found on the face shield, investigators were unsuccessful at finding prints on certain items, like the guitar bag and chainsaw. He said the reason was that the texture on both objects made it difficult to find fingerprints.

Today's testimony concluded with Officer Vince Dutto, who worked as a San Mateo police detective at the time of the attempted bombing. Dutto testified that he interviewed Youshock the day of the events at the school.

Video of an interview between Dutto and Youshock will be played at Tuesday's testimony, which begins at 9 a.m. in San Mateo County Superior Court's department 24.

The prosecution alleges that the evidence points to a months-long premeditated attack that Youshock planned in order to kill a teacher who had flunked him.

Defense attorney Jonathan McDougall maintains that the defendant suffers from schizophrenia, which causes paranoia and prevents him from discerning reality from fantasy.

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