View Full Version : Hearing focuses on rifle

03-23-06, 08:23 AM
Hearing focuses on rifle
March 23,2006
ROSELEE PAPANDREA View stories by reporter

One of Zenaida Taulbee’s former lovers testified briefly in Onslow County Superior Court on Wednesday in an effort to discredit one of the prosecution’s key witnesses in Randy Linniman’s first-degree murder trial.

Earlier this week, Zenaida Taulbee testified that Linniman, 40, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, conspired with Ruben Wright, 49, to make the .22-caliber rifle that was used to kill her husband, retired Marine Master Sgt. James Taulbee, in January 2004.

Zenaida Taulbee, 37, and Wright, a retired Marine chief warrant officer 4, were having an affair at the time of James Taulbee’s death. Wright, who wanted James Taulbee out of the picture, was convicted of first-degree murder in January and is serving a life sentence. Zenaida Taulbee pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. In exchange for the lesser plea, she testified for the state in both Wright and Linniman’s trial. She will be sentenced later.

Prosecutors called an additional witness — a Marine chief warrant officer 4 and gunner — in an effort to rebut Linniman’s claim that he modified the 22 Winchester Magnum and created a silencer for the gun because Wright needed it to take to Iraq.

Ronnie Hancock testified that he met Zenaida Taulbee in November 2000. At the time, he was a Marine master sergeant, although he has since retired. Hancock said his relationship with Zenaida Taulbee was sexual and it only lasted six months.

“During the sexual relationship, she did state that she didn’t want to be married any more and that she was having problems with her husband,” Hancock told defense attorney Ed Bailey, who is representing Linniman.

Hancock testified for the state in Wright’s trial. Assistant district attorneys Ernie Lee and Mike Maultsby, who are prosecuting Linniman’s case, also were the prosecutors in Wright’s trial. Judge Charles Henry, who is presiding over Linniman’s trial, also heard Wright’s case.

Hancock said he wasn’t interested in Zenaida Taulbee’s marital troubles. She eventually broke the relationship off with him in June 2001, claiming she had found someone who loved her.

When Zenaida Taulbee was first interviewed by authorities following her husband’s death on Jan. 5, 2004, she named Hancock as the person who might want her husband dead, according to testimony. Hancock testified that he had to provide authorities with an alibi for that day. He said he was working out of town.

Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ken Cargile, a gunner who holds the same position in the 6th Marine Regiment Wright did prior to his arrest in January 2004, testified about his knowledge of weapons. Gunners are considered experts in all weapons used by the Marine Corps.

Linniman, who was assigned to 6th Marine Regiment and worked under Wright, said that Wright ordered him to make a suppressor or silencer for a weapon. Wright was going to use the modified gun for “house clearing” in Iraq, Linniman testified.

Cargile has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He said gunners are not on the front lines during battle. A gunner’s mission is to advise commanding officers on “how to deploy weapons to help shape the battlefield.”

“Are Marines allowed to bring personal weapons to Iraq or Afghanistan?” Lee asked.

Cargile said there is a general order all Marines know that forbids them from bringing personal weapons. He said it’s the way the Marine Corps, which issues the guns and ammunition used in battle, can be certain weapons are reliable.

“Who knows if (a personal weapon) will work or not,” Cargile said. “If I’m going to support you and you are going to support me, I want the best weapon out there.”

Lee showed Cargile the two weapons Linniman admitted that he modified. One was a .410 shotgun that blew up after Linniman attached a homemade silencer. The other was the 22 Winchester Magnum Wright used to shoot James Taulbee twice in the head.

“Have you ever seen anything like this used in either Iraq or Afghanistan?” Lee asked holding up the sawed-off 22 Winchester Magnum.

“You wouldn’t be authorized to take a weapon like that, and I wouldn’t choose to,” Cargile said, indicating that a rifle that needs to be reloaded after each shot wouldn’t be very useful in battle.

Lee asked Cargile what he would he expect a gunnery sergeant to say to him if he ordered him to modify a weapon.

“I would expect him to tell me no, because it would unauthorized for him or me to do so,” Cargile said.

On cross-examination, Bailey asked Cargile if suppressors are used in the Marine Corps. Cargile said that some suppressors are used, but they aren’t issued to “just anybody.” Cargile also indicated that there wouldn’t be a need for a silencer when houses are cleared in Iraq because it’s normally a noisy process.

He said doors are broken down, and it’s typically loud. The only reason to use a suppressor would be to lessen the noise so Marines could communicate better.

Bailey gave the seven-man, five-woman jury a 32-page transcript to read of a two-hour taped interview Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown had with Linniman on Jan. 20, 2004, just prior to Linniman’s arrest. It took jury members about an hour to read the document, which was admitted as evidence but wasn’t previously part of the file in the Clerk of Court’s office. A copy of the transcript wasn’t immediately available.

Testimony continues at 9 a.m. Attorneys are also expected to do closing arguments today.

Contact staff writer Roselee Papandrea at rpapandrea@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 238.


03-24-06, 08:57 AM
Surprise witness allowed
March 24,2006

The wife of a man who was previously convicted of the first-degree murder of James Taulbee will testify today in Onslow County Superior Court against Randy Linniman, who is charged with the same crime.

Jacksonville attorney Ed Bailey, who is representing Linniman, objected to the prosecution’s request to have Deborah Wright testify because her name wasn’t included on the witness list.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Maultsby, who is prosecuting the case along with Assistant District Attorney Ernie Lee, said the state didn’t expect Deborah Wright would want to testify for the state.

In January, her husband, Ruben Wright, 49, a retired Marine chief warrant officer 4, was convicted of shooting Taulbee, a retired Marine master sergeant, in the head twice while he was in bed in his Aragona Village home Jan. 5, 2004. He is serving a mandatory life sentence.

Maultsby wanted to put Deborah Wright on the stand Thursday, calling her a rebuttal witness. She is expected to testify that Linniman, 40, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who is accused of making the gun used to kill Taulbee and hiding it, knew she was married to Ruben Wright.

At the time of James Taulbee’s murder, his wife, Zenaida Taulbee, was having an affair with Ruben Wright. Linniman, who testified earlier this week, said that he believed Zenaida Taulbee, who is Filipino and has long hair, was Ruben Wright’s wife and that’s how she was introduced to both him and his current wife, Mary Ann Linniman.

Randy Linniman testified this week that his first wife had several affairs with Marines while he was deployed, and he wouldn’t have approved of Ruben Wright’s affair if he had known about it.

Deborah Wright, who is black and has short hair, is expected to testify that she met Linniman and saw him at a military formation and a party in Ruben Wright’s office, Maultsby told Judge Charles Henry as the seven-man, five-woman jury waited in the jury room. Deborah Wright is also expected to show the jury copies of the family photos that her husband kept in his 6th Marine Regiment office.

Bailey argued that if Deborah Wright testified, it put him in an “unfair position” and he would need to call two to four rebuttal witnesses. He wasn’t prepared to bring those people into the courtroom Thursday. He said he needed at least a day to get it arranged.

“Mr. Linniman’s life is a stake for all practical purposes for both him and his family,” Bailey said.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Linniman, who has a young son and daughter, will get a mandatory life sentence.

“All I’m asking is that he gets treated fairly,” Bailey said.

Henry said that “in the interest of justice” Deborah Wright should be able to testify, and he recessed court until 10 a.m. today to give Bailey time to get his witnesses.

Deborah Wright was in the courtroom Thursday for the first time since Linniman’s trial began early last week. She stood in support of her husband and maintained he was not guilty of killing James Taulbee during his two-week trial in January.

Zenaida Taulbee, who testified at both Wright and Linniman’s trials, pleaded guilty in January to second-degree murder for her role in her husband’s death. She was originally charged with first-degree murder but was given the lesser charge in exchange for her court testimony. She will be sentenced at a later date.

Zenaida Taulbee, who testified for the state last week, said she never represented herself as Wright’s wife and that when she was introduced to Linniman, it was as “Zenaida Taulbee.” However, she said that Mary Ann Linniman thought she was married to Ruben Wright.

Marine Sgt. Craig Olszta, who was assigned to 6th Marine Regiment in 2004 with Randy Linniman and Ruben Wright, testified Thursday he knew Wright was married and that the only woman introduced to him as Wright’s wife was Filipino. He said he met the Filipino woman at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital after Mary Ann Linniman had her daughter in July 2003.

Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ken Cargile, a gunner who holds the same position in the 6th Marine Regiment Wright did prior to his arrest in January 2004, testified Wednesday that he met Deborah Wright on several occasions. He described her as a black female with short hair.

Contact staff writer Roselee Papandrea at rpapandrea@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 238.