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COURT BLOG: Placerville principal shooting trial | Crime

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COURT BLOG: Placerville principal shooting trial
Crime

PLACERVILLE, CA - Opening statements began Wednesday morning in the trial of a school maintenance worker accused of killing a Placerville elementary school principal.

John Luebbers is accused of shooting Louisiana Schnell Elementary School Principal Sam LaCara on Feb. 2, 2011. The shooting happened at the school, and prosecutors say it was over an employment dispute.

RELATED: Placerville principal fatally shot at elementary school

Read our News10 court blog of what's happening at the trial:

Close of day: Court will begin on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Judge: We are lightyears ahead in this case. It may not even be three weeks.

2 p.m.: The next witness is Duskin Franz.  Franz is an officer for Placerville PD. He was dispatched to Schnell Elementary at approximately 10:38 a.m. on February 2.

Franz: I parked in front of the office and used wall as cover.

A staff member let the officer inside the school.

Franz: I asked where the principal's office was at and the suspect that shot him.

Franz went to the office and found LaCara behind his office desk. He was laying on his side and appeared unresponsive. Franz checked for vitals.

Franz: I was shaking him, yelling to staff "what's his name?" I yelled his name.

Franz: I was told the suspect left. I did not know if he was an active shooter or if it was an isolated event.  The victim never regained conscious. 

A second officer arrived at the principal's office door.

Franz: At that point,  once detecting no vital signs, I ripped open his shirt, loosened his tie and started chest compressions. We had to move him out to main lobby of admin building.

Franz: The next thing we tried to determine who the suspect was and we were told it was John Luebbers, a janitor.

Franz says they set up a perimeter and once they determined they did not have an active shooter, they moved to collecting evidence, securing the bldg and conducting their investigations.

Franz: Our first priority is to render aid...secure campus...then the scene.

1:45 p.m.: We are listing to Joy Fausel's 911 call, Exhibit 4.

Audio: We have shots fired at school in the office.

Dispatch: Anyone hurt?

Fausel: Hurry, the principal. 

Dispatch: Shots fired at Schnell Elementary. The principal? Is he hurt?

Fausel; Yes, I'm on the floor in my office.

Dispatch: Do you know who the suspect is?

Fausel: John Luebber. He's a janitor here on campus. I don't know where he's at.

Fauseldescribes what Luebbers is wearing to the dispatcher.

Fausel: He's our janitor and there's been conflict this morning. We need an ambulance.

Dispatch: When was John Luebbers last seen?

Fausel: About 4 minutes ago.

1:35 p.m.: School Secretary Joy Fausel continues to tell us what happened the day Sam LaCara was shot.

Fausel: He passed my field of vision and went to the opening of Sam's door. There were a lot of angry shouting. I don't remember the words. I went into panic mode.

Fausel: Three shots were fired. There was a pop...pop, pop!
I ran to my door.

PLACERVILLE, CA - Opening statements began Wednesday morning in the trial of a school maintenance worker accused of killing a Placerville elementary school principal.

John Luebbers is accused of shooting Louisiana Schnell Elementary School Principal Sam LaCara on February 2, 2011. The shooting happened at the school, and prosecutors say it was over an employment dispute.

RELATED: Placerville principal fatally shot at elementary school

Read our News10 court blog of what's happening at the trial:

Close of day: Court will begin on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Judge: We are lightyears ahead in this case. It may not even be three weeks.

2:00 p.m.: The next witness is Duskin Franz. Franz is an officer for Placerville PD. He was dispatched to Schnell Elementary at approximately 10:38 a.m. on February 2.

Franz: I parked in front of the office and used wall as cover.

A staff member let the officer inside the school.

Franz: I asked where the principal's office was at and the suspect that shot him.

Franz went to the office and found LaCara behind his office desk. He was laying on his side and appeared unresponsive. Franz checked for vitals.

Franz: I was shaking him, yelling to staff "what's his name?" I yelled his name.

Franz: I was told the suspect left. I did not know if he was an active shooter or if it was an isolated event. The victim never regained conscious.

A second officer arrived at the principal's office door.

Franz: At that point, once detecting no vital signs, I ripped open his shirt, loosened his tie and started chest compressions. We had to move him out to main lobby of admin building.

Franz: The next thing we tried to determine who the suspect was and we were told it was John Luebbers, a janitor.

Franz says they set up a perimeter and once they determined they did not have an active shooter, they moved to collecting evidence, securing the bldg and conducting their investigations.

Franz: Our first priority is to render aid...secure campus...then the scene.

1:45 p.m.: We are listing to Joy Fausel's 911 call, Exhibit 4.

Audio: We have shots fired at school in the office.

Dispatch: Anyone hurt?

Fausel: Hurry, the principal.

Dispatch: Shots fired at Schnell Elementary. The principal? Is he hurt?

Fausel; Yes, I'm on the floor in my office.

Dispatch: Do you know who the suspect is?

Fausel: John Luebber. He's a janitor here on campus. I don't know where he's at.

Fauseldescribes what Luebbers is wearing to the dispatcher.

Fausel: He's our janitor and there's been conflict this morning. We need an ambulance.

Dispatch: When was John Luebbers last seen?

Fausel: About 4 minutes ago.

1:35 p.m.: School Secretary Joy Fausel continues to tell us what happened the day Sam LaCara was shot.

Fausel: He passed my field of vision and went to the opening of Sam's door. There were a lot of angry shouting. I don't remember the words. I went into panic mode.

Fausel: Three shots were fired. There was a pop...pop, pop!
I ran to my door.

Fauseo: There is a direct line of sight from my door to his office. He was not sitting at his desk. The defendent's back was to me.
He had his hands around the gun and he was leaning over the desk. He had hands extended around gun.

Fausel demonstrated to the court with her hands how Luebber was holding the gun. She said couldn't see LaCara.

Fausel: I heard noise...and then there was quiet. I wasn't there for the last shot. It was after last shot that he was standing over the desk.

She says Luebber was leaning over desk pointing downward.

Fausel: He turned and he looked at me and said (explicit)...and started walking toward me. There was kindergartener looking up at me with his eyes...I pulled him on the ground, slammed door and locked it.

Fausel: The gun was pointing in my face and dropped to the floor. I waited for gun to go off and it didn't. I was also frightened and didn't know if he would come to windows behind me.

Fausel: I crawled on my hands and knees, grabbed phone and called 911. I wanted help.

1:32 p.m.: Court takes a break until 1:30 p.m. When they return, Joy Fauselis back on the stand. She continues to tell us what she saw that day.

Fausel: He (Sam) said when these students are signed in, I need to speak with you and Dawn. He said I just had an argument with John and sent him home to cool off.

Fausel:He said I need to go to cafe and start getting things ready for lunch.

Fausel says then the first phone call started. The phone was kept in desk drawer. Phones alternately started ringing - both the desk and cell phone.

Fausel: It was not like him to raise his voice and he was yelling into the phone. I pulled his door shut so he could have some privacy.

When Sam went to do the teacher observation meeting, the phone rang multiple times. Cooper had a second convervation with John.

Fausel: I heard her say "Yes, John."

Fausel: There were no threats. There were angry exchanges.

Fausel says she heard Sam say: "I am not a sell out. I am not a political sell out."

LaCara did not have authority to fire Luebbers.

Fausel saw Luebers about 10:30 a.m.

Fausel: I became aware that the side door was open. The phones were ringing...John came through the side door. His cell phone was in his left hand at his ear and the gun in his right hand.

Fausel was sitting at her desk when this happened.

11:48 a.m.: The prosecutor shows the witness, Joy Fausel, Exhibit 2B which is a diagram of the offices at school.

Fausel: I heard loud voices,. I walked out of my office down towards the cafe. Dawn Cooper and myself stood at windows looking down.

Fausel: Sam and John were in a heated argument...very angry body language...yelling at each other.

Fausel says she could not hear the conversation and is not sure how long it went on. She says she went back to work.

Prosecutor: Did you have any conversation with John Luebbers after the argument?

Fausel: I did not. I could see he (LaCara) wasn't himself. He wasn't talking a lot about the argument.

11:43 a.m.: The prosecutor asks Joy Fausel if the intent of hiring the new custodian was to take hours away from John Luebbers.

Fausel: No...it's two totally different positions.

The interviews for the position were at 9 a.m. at district office. Fausel says during the process they each ranked the candidates from 1 to 4. At the end, once all four were finished, then they discussed their preference.

Fausel: He (Luebbers) said I won't work with him. He's a kiss-a**. John was referring to a candidate.

Fausel: We were back at the campus around 11:30. Sam returned to his office and closed the door to make phone calls for references.

Fausel: After he was in the office, he stood at my office door and said candidate 1 doesn't work. His reference doesn't check out.

Prosecutor: Who preferred candidate 1?

Fausel: He was my preference, Sam's and the superintendent's.
When he left my office he said I'm going to check on number 2.

Fausel: He said I can't believe it. Candidate 2 doesn't work out.

John Luebbers favored number two.

11:36 a.m.: The third witness is Joy Fausel. She is the school secretary and has worked at Louisiana Schnell Elementary for six years.

Fausel says she and Sam LaCara were good friends. They worked closely in office and worked together at a previous school.

Fausel: He went to my daughter's wedding. We were good friends.

She also says she had a friendly relationship with John Luebbers.

Fausel: Monday I worked a full day, and students were there half a day. We were preparing for Tuesday. There were going to be interviews for a night janitor. The interviews were scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. We talked about questions and interview questions. Normal preparation.

11:29 a.m.: The prosecutor continues to interview Kara Tracy.

Tracy: Next..we had a lockdown.

The prosecutor shows exhibit 1 and 1A which is diagram of the campus and a Google satellite photo of the school grounds.

The prosecutor wants to know more about the conversation in lunch room the day before.

Tracy: I figured he [Luebbers] would not talk to him [LaCara] for a couple weeks...but I never thought what happened would happen.

The prosecutor is now done and the defense now interviews Kara Tracy.

Tracy describes her conversation with Luebbers on Tuesday.

Tracy: I would say probably angry. The way his face - I could see it on his face that he was angry. His face was red...That's why I had stopped to talk to him.

Tracy: I knew what was wrong. He felt he should have had more say in the hiring of the custodian.

On Wednesday, February 2, Tracy says she overheard an argument. She didn't see it, but she recognized the voices. She had about five children with her at the time.

Tracy: I quickly pushed them along and went into the classroom.

Tracy: I saw Sam when he came into class around 10:20-10:25. He stayed a few minutes.

The defense has nothing further and the witness is excused.

11:08 a.m.: Kara Tracy begins to cry and asks for a moment. She says Luebbers' last words to her on Tuesday were "that he would show Sam and that was it."

On Wednesday, February 2, Tracy signed in at 9 a.m. at the office and went to a classroom.

She says she heard an argument in Luebber's office. The door was partially opened. She couldn't see, but recognized the voices. She heard swearing.

Tracy: Someone used the f-bomb and that drew attention.

Tracy: I heard John use the F-bomb and then I heard talking...I couldn't hear what was said but heard Sam talking. I didn't linger and listen.

Tracy: I saw John again a few minutes later.

Tracy said she was having trouble with the key and saw Luebbers walking between two buildings.

Tracy: I heard him (Luebbers) open the door to his truck and drive away. He always parks in same spot.

Tracy: I didn't talk to John.

Tracy: I saw Sam later that day...around 10:20 or 10:25. He was set to observe our classroom. Observation was around 10:30.

Tracy says Sam did not do observation.

Tracy: He did not explain why..and said he "had other issues to take care of."

When asked about LaCara's demeanor at that time, Tracy told the court the following:

Tracy: I did observe [she begins to cry]. He had a look upon his face. To this day, I haven't been able to interpret what it was.

She says generally, Sam was fun, happy and charming.

10:56 a.m.: Kara Tracy continues to tell the court what Luebbers told her on the Tuesday before the shooting.

Tracy: I know that we talked about how he felt. That he hadn't been given enough decision-making authority for an employee to be hired.

The school was hiring a custodian to replace another custodian who retired.

Tracy: I know he said he felt he should have more decision-making authority because he would be working alongside the custodian.

Tracy says he mentioned Sam LaCara, Joy Fausel [the secretary] and Nancy Lynch.

Tracy: He was angry because they did not choose the one he felt should be hired.

Tracy says in their conversation, he was "huffy." When he initially approached her he was angry, but the anger escalated as he was talking about it.

Tracy: He was just angry. You could hear it in his voice and see it on his face.

10:52 a.m.: Kara Tracy is an instructional aid at the school. She is being interviewed by the prosecutor. Tracy says she had a positive relationship with Principal Sam LaCara.

Tracy: There's a group of us at school that play cards.

On Monday January 31, Tracy says she went on a walk with Luebbers during lunch.

Tracy: A couple of us walk. John said he went golfing with Sam the previous day. It seemed like they had a good time.

Tracy says it was a short walk and only remembers the conversation about golf.

On Tuesday, February 1, Tracy doesn't recall anything out of ordinary. Her last interaction with Luebbers is around 2 p.m. in the lunch room. Tracy was ending her kitchen shift and Luebbers was cleaning the lunch room (also known as the school's multi-purpose room).

Tracy: I stopped him from doing his job because I noticed he was angry. I could tell it in his face. His face appeared a reddish color and he just had that look in his eye that he was very upset.

She said she asked him why he was upset.

10:40 a.m.: The Defense Attorney is now interviewing Cooper.

Cooper says the conversation between LaCara and Luebbers lasted about 5 minutes and she observed them all that time (while sitting in the office).

Cooper says school starts at 8:55 a.m. and ends at 3:10 p.m.

On February 2, 2011, Cooper says there were phone calls back and forth to Sam's office and cell phone. Luebbers called her after approximately 8 phone calls to Sam. Luebers called the 59 line directly. He asked for Sam. Sam took call with door open.

Cooper was at her desk and heard parts of call.

She said at 10:30 there was another call.

Defendant: You mentioned being concerned...was that because something was out of the ordinary?

Cooper: Yes

Cooper said that when Luebbers entered, he did not acknowledge her.

Cooper: We didn't always acknowledge each other when he came in the office.

Cooper: I was shocked because what happened and because the men were friends.

Cooper: I did not see John leave.

Cooper: I got up from under desk on my own. I heard John confront Joy [the school secretary]. His voice was louder on other side of desk.

9:54 a.m.: The Prosecutor is Joe Alexander.

Cooper shows how Luebbers was holding the gun. His hands were positioned in front, with one hand cupped under the other.

Cooper: I was - I think I was shocked that I saw him fire a gun.

Cooper: Two consecutive shots. I saw what looked like smoke coming from gun... I got under desk. I don't know how I ended up under there I just did.

Cooper: I heard him confront Joy...I heard him say and you're a part of this too b***

Cooper says she didn't see it happen, but heard.

Next thing Cooper remembers is hearing the side door open. She didn't see door open, but knows it was opened because she could hear it.

Cooper: I waited to make sure it was OK to come out from desk. I went into Sam's office. He was lying on his stomach on his forearms on the floor.

Cooper then describes where found the principal in the office.

Cooper: He was trying to push up on elbows...He was moaning but couldn't speak. I got down beside him... I was patting his back I said "it's ok. It's ok."

Cooper: So I knew had to sound alarms... I went out of his office and hit all-call system on wall... but the lock-down alarm didn't work.

Cooper: I started back to my desk around here. As I went by, I noticed Joy in the office on phone. I got my keys out and wanted to lock doors. I believe I locked doors.

Joy is another office employee.

Cooper: I went to the desk and made calls to all the classrooms on campus.

Cooper: I was standing at my desk and hung up phone...

Cooper begins to cry on the stand.

She says when Luebbers came in there was a child in the nurse's office and a student outside Joy's office.

9:43 a.m.: Cooper continues on the stand.

Cooper: I was concerned about argument because of demeanor and it was out of the ordinary for Sam to be so angry.

Cooper said she was standing at her desk in a clear line of sight to Sam's office.

Luebbers came in through the side door after the second telephone call...He went into Sam's office, positioned himself and shot three times.

Cooper: He had a purposeful stride...Most of what he said was not coherent.

Cooper: He said this is for you motherf**. It seemed like it was said at same time as shots fired.

Prosecutor: Did you hear Sam say anything?

Cooper: No

Sam was sitting behind his desk at the time of shooting.

9:37 a.m. Dawn Cooper continues describing phone call between herself and Luebbers:

Luebbers: "Hey coopy is sam there?"

Cooper: "Yes do you want to talk with him?"

Luebbers: "Put him on hold"

Cooper explains that LaCara took the call, and that Luebbers did not sound angry.

"It would have been like a normal conversation between him and I," says Cooper .

Cooper says she was able to hear parts of the conversation between Luebbers and LaCara."

Cooper: "The conversation I heard on Sam's side started out where he seemed quiet, but as the conversation progressed, Sam was becoming angrier. During parts of the conversation he [Sam] said he was not a f****** politician and not a f****** liar."

Cooper explains she never heard LaCara threaten Luebbers or say the word "fired".

Cooper: "Sam left the office to say he would not do teacher observations at 10:20 a.m."

Cooper says she was unclear what time LaCara returned, stating "he came back when I radioed him about a second call from Luebbers around 10:30 a.m."

Prosecutor: What was Luebber's demeanor?

Cooper: "It was the same as the first, like we were having a conversation. I radioed Sam on Walkie Talkie and told him Luebbers wanted to speak. I heard parts of the conversation. I remember it started out where Sam was quiet and as the conversation ended, Sam's voice got louder."

Prosecutor: When did the conversation end?"

Cooper: "It ended when John walked into his office."

The prosecutor shows Cooper a diagram of the main office (exhibit 2B)

9:28 a.m.: Dawn Cooper is the office clerk who has worked at the school for 22 years. She describes her relationship with John Luebbers as good, friendly, and they socialized outside work. She told the court they played cards at Luebbers' home.

She says she witnessed an argument on Tuesday between Luebbers and Sam LaCara. She could hear noise, but couldn't make out what they were saying. LaCara looked angry. Luebbers was pointing fingers.

Cooper said she was watching the argument from her office through the window and was close enough to see who the men were.

Cooper saw Luebbers near the electrical box while walking to the cafeteria. She said "hi" to him and he waved...Then Cooper asked how he was doing. She says he let her know what was going on. He started angrily talking about politicians in the school district...He was tired of them messing with things.

"He said to me they don't know who they're messing with, but they will." Cooper says he said this on Tuesday, February 1 around lunch hour.

Cooper told the court that on Wednesday, February 2, LaCara said there were some issues. He asked for Luebbers' keys and sent him home to cool off.

Cooper talked to Luebbers on the phone around 10 a.m.

Cooper: I received another phone call from John Luebbers shortly after.

Prosecutor: Were you aware of someone calling the principal's direct line?

Cooper: Yes, phone would ring and ring and ring.

9:15 a.m.: Defense attorney, David Cramer, says there were a number of heated arguments and a lot of phone calls between victim and defendant.

Cramer: Case was result of rational impulse and heated passion. Yes, the facts are ugly very very ugly. Yes, he shot and killed. No disputing that fact...But did John Luebbers have malice of forethought when he fired the gun?

First witness is the Principal's secretary, Dawn Cooper.

LaCara's wife leave after opening argument.

9:09 a.m.: Jury is made up of 7men, 5 women.

DA opening statements: Sam LaCara and John Luebbers played golf on a Sunday. The following Wed, Luebbers pointed a gun and shot LaCara who was seated behind his desk in the elementary school

There was tension between the men in the days leading up to shooting. The DA says the defendant didn't like a candidate for janitor position.

Luebbers had made several public comments about hiring, saying to witnesses that he's angry about the "politics of hiring"
and "I'll show Sam". He was also heard saying to another person that "they don't know who they're messing with but they will."

 

: There is a direct line of sight from my door to his office. He was not sitting at his desk. The defendent's back was to me.
He had his hands around the gun and he was leaning over the desk. He had hands extended around gun.

Fausel demonstrated to the court with her hands how Luebber was holding the gun. She said couldn't see LaCara.

Fausel: I heard noise...and then there was quiet.  I wasn't there for the last shot. It was after last shot that he was standing over the desk.

She says Luebber was leaning over desk pointing downward.

Fausel: He turned and he looked at me and said (explicit)...and started walking toward me. There was kindergartener looking up at me with his eyes...I pulled him on the ground, slammed door and locked it.

Fausel: The gun was pointing in my face and dropped to the floor.  I waited for gun to go off and it didn't. I was also frightened and didn't know if he would come to windows behind me.

Fausel: I crawled on my hands and knees, grabbed phone and called 911.  I wanted help.

1:32 p.m.: Court takes a break until 1:30 p.m. When they return, Joy Fauselis back on the stand.  She continues to tell us what she saw that day.

Fausel: He (Sam) said when these students are signed in, I need to speak with you and Dawn. He said I just had an argument with John and sent him home to cool off.

Fausel:He said I need to go to cafe and start getting things ready for lunch.

Fausel says then the first phone call started.  The phone was kept in desk drawer. Phones alternately started ringing - both the desk and cell phone.

Fausel: It was not like him to raise his voice and he was yelling into the phone. I pulled his door shut so he could have some privacy.

When Sam went to do the teacher observation meeting, the phone rang multiple times. Cooper had a second convervation with John.

Fausel: I heard her say "Yes, John."

Fausel: There were no threats. There were angry exchanges. 

Fausel says she heard Sam say: "I am not a sell out. I am not a political sell out." 

LaCara did not have authority to fire Luebbers. 

Fausel saw Luebers about 10:30 a.m.

Fausel: I became aware that the side door was open. The phones were ringing...John came through the side door. His cell phone was in his left hand at his ear and the gun in his right hand.

Fausel was sitting at her desk when this happened. 

11:48 a.m.: The prosecutor shows the witness, Joy Fausel, Exhibit 2B which is a diagram of the offices at school.

Fausel: I heard loud voices,. I walked out of my office down towards the cafe. Dawn Cooper and myself stood at windows looking down.

Fausel: Sam and John were in a heated argument...very angry body language...yelling at each other.

Fausel says she could not hear the conversation and is not sure how long it went on. She says she went back to work.

Prosecutor: Did you have any conversation with John Luebbers after the argument?

Fausel: I did not. I could see he (LaCara) wasn't himself. He wasn't talking a lot about the argument.

11:43 a.m.: The prosecutor asks Joy Fausel if the intent of hiring the new custodian was to take hours away from John Luebbers.

Fausel: No...it's two totally different positions.

The interviews for the position were at 9 a.m. at district office. Fausel says during the process they each ranked the candidates from 1 to 4. At the end, once all four were finished, then they discussed their preference.

Fausel: He (Luebbers) said I won't work with him. He's a kiss-a**. John was referring to a candidate. 

Fausel: We were back at the campus around 11:30. Sam returned to his office and closed the door to make phone calls for references. 

Fausel: After he was in the office, he stood at my office door and said candidate 1 doesn't work. His reference doesn't check out.

Prosecutor: Who preferred candidate 1?

Fausel: He was my preference, Sam's and the superintendent's.
When he left my office he said I'm going to check on number 2.

Fausel: He said I can't believe it. Candidate 2 doesn't work out.

John Luebbers favored number two.

11:36 a.m.: The third witness is Joy Fausel. She is the school secretary and has worked at Louisiana Schnell Elementary for six years.

Fausel says she and Sam LaCara were good friends. They worked closely in office and worked together at a previous school.

Fausel: He went to my daughter's wedding. We were good friends.

She also says she had a friendly relationship with John Luebbers.

Fausel: Monday I worked a full day, and students were there half a day. We were preparing for Tuesday. There were going to be interviews for a night janitor. The interviews were scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. We talked about questions and interview questions. Normal preparation.

11:29 a.m.: The prosecutor continues to interview Kara Tracy. 

Tracy: Next..we had a lockdown.

The prosecutor shows exhibit 1 and 1A which is diagram of the campus and a Google satellite photo of the school grounds. 

The prosecutor wants to know more about the conversation in lunch room the day before.

Tracy: I figured he [Luebbers] would not talk to him [LaCara] for a couple weeks...but I never thought what happened would happen.

The prosecutor is now done and the defense now interviews Kara Tracy.

Tracy describes her conversation with Luebbers on Tuesday.

Tracy: I would say probably angry. The way his face - I could see it on his face that he was angry. His face was red...That's why I had stopped to talk to him.

Tracy: I knew what was wrong. He felt he should have had more say in the hiring of the custodian.

On Wednesday, February 2, Tracy says she overheard an argument. She didn't see it, but she recognized the voices. She had about five children with her at the time.

Tracy: I quickly pushed them along and went into the classroom.

Tracy: I saw Sam when he came into class around 10:20-10:25. He stayed a few minutes.

The defense has nothing further and the witness is excused.

11:08 a.m.: Kara Tracy begins to cry and asks for a moment. She says Luebbers' last words to her on Tuesday were "that he would show Sam and that was it."

On Wednesday, February 2, Tracy signed in at 9 a.m. at the office and went to a classroom.

She says she heard an argument in Luebber's office. The door was partially opened. She couldn't see, but recognized the voices. She heard swearing.

Tracy: Someone used the f-bomb and that drew attention.

Tracy: I heard John use the F-bomb and then I heard talking...I couldn't hear what was said but heard Sam talking. I didn't linger and listen.

Tracy: I saw John again a few minutes later.

Tracy said she was having trouble with the key and saw Luebbers walking between two buildings.

Tracy: I heard him (Luebbers) open the door to his truck and drive away. He always parks in same spot.

Tracy: I didn't talk to John. 

Tracy: I saw Sam later that day...around 10:20 or 10:25. He was set to observe our classroom. Observation was around 10:30.

Tracy says Sam did not do observation.

Tracy: He did not explain why..and said he "had other issues to take care of."

When asked about LaCara's demeanor at that time, Tracy told the court the following:

Tracy: I did observe [she begins to cry]. He had a look upon his face. To this day, I haven't been able to interpret what it was.

She says generally, Sam was fun, happy and charming.

10:56 a.m.: Kara Tracy continues to tell the court what Luebbers told her on the Tuesday before the shooting.

Tracy: I know that we talked about how he felt. That he hadn't been given enough decision-making authority for an employee to be hired.

The school was hiring a custodian to replace another custodian who retired.

Tracy: I know he said he felt he should have more decision-making authority because he would be working alongside the custodian. 

Tracy says he mentioned Sam LaCara, Joy Fausel [the secretary] and Nancy Lynch.

Tracy: He was angry because they did not choose the one he felt should be hired.

Tracy says in their conversation, he was "huffy." When he initially approached her he was angry, but the anger escalated as he was talking about it.

Tracy: He was just angry. You could hear it in his voice and see it on his face.

10:52 a.m.: Kara Tracy is an instructional aid at the school.  She is being interviewed by the prosecutor.  Tracy says she had a positive relationship with Principal Sam LaCara.

Tracy: There's a group of us at school that play cards.

On Monday January 31, Tracy says she went on a walk with Luebbers during lunch.

Tracy:  A couple of us walk. John said he went golfing with Sam the previous day.  It seemed like they had a good time.

Tracy says it was a short walk and only remembers the conversation about golf.

On Tuesday, February 1, Tracy doesn't recall anything out of ordinary. Her last interaction with Luebbers is around 2 p.m. in the lunch room. Tracy was ending her kitchen shift and Luebbers was cleaning the lunch room (also known as the school's multi-purpose room).

Tracy: I stopped him from doing his job because I noticed he was angry. I could tell it in his face. His face appeared a reddish color and he just had that look in his eye that he was very upset.

She said she asked him why he was upset.

10:40 a.m.: The Defense Attorney is now interviewing Cooper.

Cooper says the conversation between LaCara and Luebbers lasted about 5 minutes and she observed them all that time (while sitting in the office).

Cooper says school starts at 8:55 a.m. and ends at 3:10 p.m.

On February 2, 2011, Cooper says there were phone calls back and forth to Sam's office and cell phone. Luebbers called her after approximately 8 phone calls to Sam. Luebers called the 59 line directly. He asked for Sam. Sam took call with door open.

Cooper was at her desk and heard parts of call.

She said at 10:30 there was another call.

Defendant: You mentioned being concerned...was that because something was out of the ordinary?

Cooper: Yes

Cooper said that when Luebbers entered, he did not acknowledge her.

Cooper: We didn't always acknowledge each other when he came in the office.

Cooper: I was shocked because what happened and because the men were friends.

Cooper: I did not see John leave.

Cooper: I got up from under desk on my own. I heard John confront Joy [the school secretary]. His voice was louder on other side of desk.

9:54 a.m.: The Prosecutor is Joe Alexander.

Cooper shows how Luebbers was holding the gun. His hands were positioned in front, with one hand cupped under the other.

Cooper: I was - I think I was shocked that I saw him fire a gun.

Cooper: Two consecutive shots. I saw what looked like smoke coming from gun... I got under desk. I don't know how I ended up under there I just did.

Cooper: I heard him confront Joy...I heard him say and you're a part of this too b***

Cooper says she didn't see it happen, but heard.

Next thing Cooper remembers is hearing the side door open. She didn't see door open, but knows it was opened because she could hear it.

Cooper: I waited to make sure it was OK to come out from desk. I went into Sam's office. He was lying on his stomach on his forearms on the floor.

Cooper then describes where found the principal in the office.

Cooper: He was trying to push up on elbows...He was moaning but couldn't speak.  I got down beside him... I was patting his back I said "it's ok. It's ok."

Cooper: So I knew had to sound alarms... I went out of his office and hit all-call system on wall... but the lock-down alarm didn't work.

Cooper: I started back to my desk around here. As I went by, I noticed Joy in the office on phone. I got my keys out and wanted to lock doors. I believe I locked doors.

Joy is another office employee.

Cooper: I went to the desk and made calls to all the classrooms on campus.

Cooper: I was standing at my desk and hung up phone...

Cooper begins to cry on the stand.

She says when Luebbers came in there was a child in the nurse's office and a student outside Joy's office.

9:43 a.m.:  Cooper continues on the stand.

Cooper: I was concerned about argument because of demeanor and it was out of the ordinary for Sam to be so angry.

Cooper said she was standing at her desk in a clear line of sight to Sam's office. 

Luebbers came in through the side door after the second telephone call...He went into Sam's office, positioned himself and shot three times.

Cooper: He had a purposeful stride...Most of what he said was not coherent.

Cooper: He said this is for you motherf**. It seemed like it was said at same time as shots fired.

Prosecutor: Did you hear Sam say anything?

Cooper: No

Sam was sitting behind his desk at the time of shooting. 

9:37 a.m. Dawn Cooper continues describing phone call between herself and Luebbers:

Luebbers: "Hey coopy is sam there?"

Cooper: "Yes do you want to talk with him?"

Luebbers: "Put him on hold"

Cooper explains that LaCara took the call, and that Luebbers did not sound angry.

"It would have been like a normal conversation between him and I," says Cooper .

Cooper says she was able to hear parts of the conversation between Luebbers and LaCara."

Cooper: "The conversation I heard on Sam's side started out where he seemed quiet, but as the conversation progressed, Sam was becoming angrier. During parts of the conversation he [Sam] said he was not a f****** politician and not a f****** liar."

Cooper explains she never heard LaCara threaten Luebbers or say the word "fired".

Cooper: "Sam left the office to say he would not do teacher observations at 10:20 a.m."

Cooper says she was unclear what time LaCara returned, stating "he came back when I radioed him about a second call from Luebbers around 10:30 a.m."

Prosecutor: What was Luebber's demeanor?

Cooper: "It was the same as the first, like we were having a conversation. I radioed Sam on Walkie Talkie and told him Luebbers wanted to speak. I heard parts of the conversation. I remember it started out where Sam was quiet and as the conversation ended, Sam's voice got louder."

Prosecutor: When did the conversation end?"

Cooper: "It ended when John walked into his office."

The prosecutor shows Cooper a diagram of the main office (exhibit 2B)

9:28 a.m.: Dawn Cooper is the office clerk who has worked at the school for 22 years. She describes her relationship with John Luebbers as good, friendly, and they socialized outside work. She told the court they played cards at Luebbers' home.

She says she witnessed an argument on Tuesday between Luebbers and Sam LaCara. She could hear noise, but couldn't make out what they were saying. LaCara looked angry. Luebbers was pointing fingers.

Cooper said she was watching the argument from her office through the window and was close enough to see who the men were. 

Cooper saw Luebbers near the electrical box while walking to the cafeteria. She said "hi" to him and he waved...Then Cooper asked how he was doing. She says he let her know what was going on. He started angrily talking about politicians in the school district...He was tired of them messing with things.

"He said to me they don't know who they're messing with, but they will." Cooper says he said this on Tuesday, February 1 around lunch hour. 

Cooper told the court that on Wednesday, February 2, LaCara said there were some issues. He asked for Luebbers' keys and sent him home to cool off. 

Cooper talked to Luebbers on the phone around 10 a.m.

Cooper: I received another phone call from John Luebbers shortly after.

Prosecutor: Were you aware of someone calling the principal's direct line?

Cooper: Yes, phone would ring and ring and ring.

9:15 a.m.:  Defense attorney, David Cramer, says there were a number of heated arguments and a lot of phone calls between victim and defendant.

Cramer: Case was result of rational impulse and heated passion. Yes, the facts are ugly very very ugly.  Yes, he shot and killed. No disputing that fact...But did John Luebbers have malice of forethought when he fired the gun?

First witness is the Principal's secretary, Dawn Cooper.

LaCara's wife leave after opening argument.

9:09 a.m.: Jury is made up of 7men, 5 women.  

DA opening statements: Sam LaCara and John Luebbers played golf on a Sunday. The following Wed, Luebbers pointed a gun and shot LaCara who was seated behind his desk in the elementary school 

There was tension between the men in the days leading up to shooting. The DA says the defendant didn't like a candidate for janitor position. 

Luebbers had made several public comments about hiring, saying to witnesses that he's angry about the "politics of hiring"
and "I'll show Sam". He was also heard saying to another person that "they don't know who they're messing with but they will." 

 

 

Crime

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