First Ghost Ship trial witness lost daughter in fire

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The first witness for the prosecution in the Ghost Ship trial was the mother of Nicole Siegrist, one of 36 people who died when the warehouse went up in flames.

Carol Cidlik began to cry when the prosecutor showed her a picture of her 29-year-old daughter, who went by the name Denalda, and Cidlik confirmed that Nicole sent her a single text the night of December 2, 2016 that read: "I'm gonna die now."

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"We're talking about the mother of a decedent... a very young, beautiful artistic woman," said defense attorney Tony Serra, who had objected to Cidlik's testimony.

"They wanted her up there so everyone absorbs her pain, her suffering and it casts an emotional shadow, shall we say, on the case right at the inception," said Serra.

The second witness was 27-year-old Nicolas "Nico" Bouchard. Bouchard had co-signed the lease for the Ghost Ship warehouse with Derick Almena in November 2013.

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It was supposed to be a community gathering place for artists and musicians and art gallery, said Bouchard, but within days people moved RV's inside and began living there.

Bouchard testified he moved out after two or three weeks and tried to have his name removed from the lease when Almena began making structural changes to the warehouse that were not approved by the landlord Chor Ng.

Bouchard said he and others met with Almena to try to convince him to put in sprinklers and make other safety upgrades.

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"He scoffed and laughed at us," Bouchard testifed. "He said it was too mainstream. Derick liked to do things not by the books."

Almena's attorney asked Bouchard if he ever reported his concerns to any officials or the fire department.

"He harbors all kinds of malice against my client and he was going to say anything he thought that would hurt him," said Serra.

Alameda County prosecutors told a judge Monday that a key witness scheduled to testify this week, Robert Jacobitz, was killed in an accident over the weekend. Prosecutors say Jacobitz was hired as an unlicensed contractor to do inexpensive wiring at the Oakland warehouse three years before a fire erupted in the illegally converted building in December 2016.

Almena and co-defendant Max Harris both face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

RELATED: Opening statements for Ghost Ship trial begin

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