KARPF’S FLIGHT HOME

 

               THE ISSUE:  Louis Karpf was the man who lived with his fiancée, Eva Stein, on the back end of a condo immediately north of Nicole’s place.  Karpf and Stein testified in the criminal trial on February 8, 1995, and Karpf testified in the civil trial on October 25, 1996.  Karpf had been out of town that weekend visiting his parents, and took a Southwest Airlines flight back to LAX from San Jose on the night of June 12th, he testified, though he did not know the flight number.karpf04.jpg (32217 bytes)

               The specific time at which he got back to his condo at 873 South Bundy is valuable to put in context later experiences he had.  He testified that…

               * The plane landed at 10:00 o’clock (but had been scheduled to arrive at 9:30).

               * It took “at most” 15 minutes to get from the plane, to his car, and out of the parking lot.

               * It took him “20 to 30 minutes” to drive home.

               * To resolve the 20/30 minute ambiguity, we undertook a Sunday night re-enactment of that drive (see “Louis Karpf”), and combined the result of that with several sources from the transcripts and depositions and thereby found substantial reason to believe that the trip from the LAX parking lot to Karpf’s garage actually took 20 minutes.

               * Therefore, the best interpretation of Karpf’s testimony is that he got to his garage at 10:35.

               (Also, we have recently reviewed the video of the February 8 testimony, and were surprised that when Karpf is asked how long it takes home to get home he says, “20 minutes” and adds, “half hour maximum” as a qualification to accommodate some other purpose – as the prosecutor’s need that it be 30 minutes.   From the timing and inflection in this answer, it appears that Karpf himself thought that it took him twenty minutes to get home from the airport.)

 

               THE RESEARCH:   Rose undertook to see if there was any record available to us of Southwest flights that night.  You may recall that at about that time (1994) there was a great public furor over the lax way that airlines generally did not adhere to their schedules, and some airlines began to promote the fact that they were more reliable than their competitors were in this regard.  I did not know, but at that time the Department of Transportation began to track the on-time performance of airlines, within:

                              Information Service Staff

                             Bureau of Transportation Statistics

                             U.S. Department of Transportation

               Rose found the current data base of this organization at http://www.bts.gov/ntda/oai/, but it only goes back to 1997.  She wrote an e-mail to the organization inquiring about Southwest flights for June 12, 1994, and she got back an Excel spreadsheet which I have reorganized, slightly expanded, and rendered into text.  The table here contains all of the SJC to LAX Southwest flights for 6/12/94.  It shows…

 

FLIGHTS ON JUNE 12, 1994 VIA SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

FLT #

ORIGIN

DESTIN -ATION

SCHED DEPART

ACTUAL DEPART

SCHED ARRIVAL

ACTUAL ARRIVAL

EARLY (-) LATE (+)

617

SJC

LAX

725

725

830

830

0

648

SJC

LAX

905

905

1020

1024

+4

410

SJC

LAX

1030

1030

1145

1141

-4

1354

SJC

LAX

1220

1220

1325

1329

+4

1578

SJC

LAX

1345

1345

1450

1459

+9

1383

SJC

LAX

1525

1530

1640

1630

-10

821

SJC

LAX

1650

1650

1805

1800

-5

1424

SJC

LAX

1835

1940

1945

1952

+7

357

SJC

LAX

1955

1955

2105

2115

+10

862

SJC

LAX

2100

2100

2210

2212

+2

782

SJC

LAX

2150

2150

2300

2251

-9

               The foregoing is in jarring contradiction with Karpf’s testimony.  In particular…

               * None of these flights got in at 10:00 o’clock.  The closest was Flight 862 which got in at 10:12, and Karpf was asked specifically about this.  He expressed confident doubt that he had been on a plane that arrived at 10:12.  (Civil trial, Karpf to Leonard, 10/25/96.)

               * None was scheduled to come in at 9:30, or anything near 9:30.  The closest was Flight 357 which was scheduled to arrive at 9:05.

               * Flight 357 was scheduled to arrive at a time that might have allowed Karpf to get home close to 9:30 (at 9:35), but which did not itself arrive at 9:30.  (See below, “FLIGHT 357”)

               Only the last flight (782) got in so late that it was impossible, out of hand, to have been the flight Karpf took to get back to LA.  Of the others, the two previous (357 and 862) warrant more interest…

 

FLIGHTS OF INTEREST

 

Estimated

Actual

FLIGHT #

357

862

EST. ARRIVAL TIME

905p

(1010p)

ACT. ARRIVAL TIME

(915p)

1012p

LEAVE. PARKING. LOT

920p

1027p

ARRIVE HOME

940p

1047p

AT FRONT GATE

 

1051p

 lax_map.jpg (43589 bytes)

               FLIGHT 862:  Recall that in the civil trial attorney Leonard asked Karpf if he had taken Southwest Flight 862 into LAX, and Karpf said he didn’t remember the flight number.  Then Leonard asked if it would surprise Karpf to learn that the flight he took got in at 10:12, and Karpf said that would surprise him.  I have complained that Leonard introduced the idea of a 10:12 arrival time without a shred of foundation, and thereby I charged that Leonard had dragged a red herring into the proceedings.  Apparently, Leonard did not, and in fact had done his homework; there was a flight 862 that night, and it did arrive at LAX at 10:12.  The problem is that Karpf does not appear to have been on it, at least not according to Karpf.  And, Leonard did not have sufficient confidence in his facts to pursue this to the point of getting a straight story from Karpf.

               Just to completely confound us, notice that if one considers that Karpf took flight 862, applies the nominal periods for getting through the LAX parking lot (15 minutes) and driving home (20 minutes), and then assumes that Karpf gets out to his mailbox in the average (4 minutes) of his courtroom estimates, then he is at his front gate at 10:51.  But, the analysis “Steven Schwab: Strange Encounter” put the Schwab/Akita encounter at 10:52 and that was 150 feet to the south at the corner of Dorothy and Bundy.  Karpf could not have interacted with the Akita at 10:51 at his front gate, the dog then departed a minute later going north toward Montana, and also been first encountered by Schwab to the south at 10:52 (and seen/heard by Schwab in the preceding minute as he approached the corner).  From this alone (much less Karpf’s denial) Karpf did not take Flight 862.

               So we are left with Karpf’s denial of the fact that he took flight 862 to get into LAX at 10:12, the incompatibility with the Bundy timeline, and also we see that flight 862 does not have the characteristic of being half an hour late (it was two minutes late), which Karpf had described with some certainty.  In fact, none of the Southwest flights that night were more than ten minutes late, and that was a rarity. 

               FLIGHT 357:   Consider that before the trip Karpf probably had told Stein the time at which he EXPECTED to get home.  If he had expected to take Flight 357, he would have estimated – using the nominal values of the transcript – that he would get home at 9:40.   However, those nominal values include an estimate that he would get out of the parking lot 15 minutes “at most” after the plane got in, and 20 minutes for the drive home.  If two minutes is cut off the parking lot to convert “at most” into actual time, and if Karpf’s driving time is reduced from his courtroom estimate of 20 minutes to our actual value in a re-enactment of 17 minutes, then Karpf could expect that his homecoming from Flight 357 would be 9:35.  This may then have lead to his having told Stein that he expected to be home by “about 9:30,” and when he had not showed up by 10:00 o’clock she gave up waiting for him, figured he had been delayed (or diverted), and went to bed alone.  This, then would account for the otherwise unexpected behavior of a young woman retiring at 10:00 o’clock when her fiancée is expected home from a trip out of town in a few minutes.  It is also about the only explanation that can be imagined for Karpf to talk about something “expected at 9:30.”

               However, if Karpf did actually take Flight 357, then he got into LAX at 9:15, ten minutes late.  His homecoming (if he came directly from the airport) would have been 9:45, not 9:35, as he would have predicted.  But, that would put Karpf at his front gate at 9:49 – long before the murders occurred by anybody’s reckoning.  Furthermore, we see from the fact that Heidstra heard Karpf’s gate slam at 10:39 (and the presumption that Karpf slammed his gate as he retreated behind it to escape from the charging Akita) that Karpf actually got home at 10:35 – fifty minutes later than he would have got home if he had taken flight 357 and come home directly.

               So, if Karpf took flight 357, what was he doing for fifty minutes, and why did he want to keep it secret?  (If Karpf took an even earlier flight, similar questions arise.)

               THE STEIN/KARPF RELATIONSHIP:  As if to deliberately thwart our ability to applystein_01.jpg (33068 bytes) our intuition to this matter, the nature of the Stein/Karpf relationship is obscure.  Sometimes the attorneys refer to Karpf as Stein’s “boyfriend” and sometimes as her “fiancée.”  In either event it seems odd that…

               * Stein would go to bed just half an hour before Karpf was expected to get home from a trip out of town.

               * Karpf’s first move on getting home would be to run out to the mailbox, rather than “check on” his girlfriend or fiancée.

               * Stein would not have brought in the mail Saturday, and so that chore would still be pending on Sunday night.  (This leads us to the presumption that Karpf had taken the mailbox key with him.)

               * After they went to bed, Stein and Karpf did not discuss his plane being late or Karpf’s strange experience by the mailbox with the frightening dog.   Commonly, unusual experiences of the day are subjects for “pillow talk” (if not before) among couples, but these two did not discuss those things until the next day, after they heard there had been murders next door during the night.  (Stein was awake when Karpf got home, in fact she came downstairs to greet him after he had got the mail -- according to her testimony, but not to Karpf’s.)

               * In her testimony, Stein refers to Karpf variously as “Louis Karpf,” “Louis,” and “Mr. Karpf.”  The last of these seems downright Victorian to me – or deliberately formal, cold, and detached.

               The first four of these might indicate that the couple was in a state of antagonism on the night of the murder, but the last of these would indicate that such an unhappy state also existed eight months later, at the criminal trial.

               Furthermore, on cross-examination Cochran asks Stein on February 8 whether she was awake when Karpf got home, and she says, "WELL, BY THE TIME HE CAME OVER, I WAS ALREADY AWAKE.”  We expect that the description of one coming back home from an out-of-town trip is “by the time he came HOME.”  We more expect that “he came OVER” is used to describe a VISIT to a place that is not his home or his usual abode.  But, we have no reason to believe that 873 S. Bundy was not Karpf’s “residence of record” as he testifies.

               About the only explanation that satisfies the literal meaning of Stein’s “he came over” and the fact of that being Karpf’s legal address is that… 873 was the place that Karpf owned, where he stashed most of his stuff (including Stein), and received his mail, but he customarily spent his time (and maybe the clothes he was in immediate need of) elsewhere.  As… at the home of a second girlfriend.  No way to know for sure, of course, but it would be a way that satisfies “he came over,” and it would explain a cold and detached regard that Stein seemed to have for Karpf.

               BTW, we suspect that Karpf owned that condo, not Karpf/Stein, because Karpf testified to Clark that he had lived there for 4-1/2 years, but Stein testified that she had lived there for only a year.  This could then explain why Karpf carried the mailbox key with him, and did not leave it as part of the household.  Furthermore, the mailbox key suggests that the rules in that household were that Karpf could keep secrets (as incoming mail) from Stein, but not vice versa.  Also, when combined with the possibility of the previous paragraph, it could be that Karpf was not “coming home” at all that night, but only stopping by to pick up the mail, and because it was late would sleep there rather than continuing on to his usual bed.  If so, what a stroke of fate for him!

               Finally, according to the testimony of February 8, Stein was interviewed by the LAPD in November, five months after the crime, but Karpf was interviewed on July 7th.  And, he (almost) tells Cochran, the initial contact was not through a police canvass, but because the police noticed that he was interviewed by the press in front of his condo the morning after the crimes; the LAPD got his contact information then.  Apparently, the existence of Stein and her having heard the dog was only uncovered much later as a result of interviews with Karpf.

               At a minimum, the cumulative implication of all these indications is that Stein and Karpf did not have an ideal man/woman relationship as we expect of a heterosexual couple living together.  (So, what’s new about that in Brentwood?)  But, it may explain that Karpf’s testimony about the time and circumstances of his homecoming was more intended to “keep up appearances” of his domestic situation than to convey the true facts of his getting home.  The inconsistency in the flight details support such an idea.

               SHOVING TEN POUNDS INTO A FIVE POUND SACK:  Marcia Clark tried mightily to make the Karpf/Stein testimony support the fact that Stein heard the dog begin to bark at 10:15.  To that end, she distorted Karpf’s time of homecoming (which his reconstruction showed to be “10:35 to 10:45,” and which objective sources show would have been 10:35) to be “10:45” by repeated references to that number, and by no mention of “10:35.”  Then she portrayed that Stein heard the dog begin to bark “half an hour earlier” than Karpf got home.  Simple arithmetic would then lead a juror to believe the time of barking was 10:45 - 30 minutes = 10:15.

               But, just as Clark warped the time of Karpf’s homecoming from 10:35 to 10:45, she also distorted the certainty of the interval between dog barking and homecoming.  (Stein did not refer to a clock during her experience, but just laid in bed – gnashing her teeth over barking dogs and wayward boyfriends, we may imagine.)  The actual testimony concerning Stein’s certainty of this “half hour” period is Stein to Clark on February 8…

________________________________________

Q SO YOUR MOST ACCURATE STATEMENT OF TIME IS THAT YOU WERE AWAKE FOR HALF

AN HOUR BY THE TIME LOUIS CAME HOME?

A YES, APPROXIMATELY HALF AN HOUR.

Q IT FELT LIKE THAT?

A IT FELT LIKE THAT.

Q AND YOU FEEL CERTAIN OF THAT?

A IT JUST FELT LIKE ABOUT HALF AN HOUR.

Q OKAY.

_________________________________________

               Depending on circumstances, a 20 minute interval may easily “feel like” half an hour.  Among such circumstances are 1) sitting in the dentist’s chair, and 2) lying in bed mulling over the poor way your boyfriend is treating you.

               A “SYNTHETIC FLIGHT”:  The situation of Karpf’s testimony demonstrates a dilemma that any witness can find himself in.  I expect that Karpf’s attitude was, “I feel really sorry for that poor woman next door and the horrible thing that happened to her.  But, I didn’t do it, and I had absolutely no responsibility for it.  Nor have I been involved in any other crime.  Furthermore, I don’t have the foggiest idea who did do it, and I have no information that could lead to his identification.  So, I don’t see why I should be burdened by making public some personal aspects of my private life that are absolutely nobody else’s business.”

               Most people’s solution is the well-known American’s Creed, “Don’t Get Involved.”  Because of this, a dozen people we did not hear from on Bundy and another dozen who live on the alley behind Nicole’s condo “didn’t hear or see anything.”   Likewise, a few people whom we know were out walking that night didn’t come forward.  But, Karpf was incautious and went out front the next morning to see what all the fuss was about.  Thereupon he was tempted by an army of TV reporters to have his 15-minutes of fame, and that eventually led to the witness stand and questions about his private life that he would rather not have discussed.

               Apparently Karpf’s solution was to create a synthetic experience, similar to his real experience (but concealing private details), that would portray the aspects of legitimate interest to the court without infringing on his personal privacy.   In service of this, he created a “synthetic flight” that never existed, but which had the characteristics he testified to.   I expect that his testimony about going out his gate, seeing a man and dog across the street, and being chased by the Akita are all true, because there is an obvious legitimate purpose of the court inquiring about those things.  And, I think he tried to be as accurate about the time of his homecoming (10:35) as he could be without compromising his personal privacy, antagonizing prosecutors (who wanted 10:45), or contradicting his original hasty police report (10:50 to 11:00).  His solution was to create a 10:00 o’clock landing time for his plane, put an unrealistic 10-minute range on his travel time from the airport, and concede that he could have arrived as late as the lowest of his police statement range – but not a millisecond later, under any circumstances.

               ODDEST OF ALL:   If attorney Leonard was able, in 1996, to identify that Southwest flight karpf10.jpg (32623 bytes)862 arrived at LAX at 10:12, and we were able to identify that detail eight years after the fact, then the DA investigators must have been able to determine it in 1994/5.  Notice that a 10:12 arrival time, coupled with a true travel time from LAX to the Bundy condo of 20 minutes works perfectly for the DA…  Arrive LAX at 10:12, out of the parking lot at 10:27, get home at 10:47.  Then subtract 30 minutes (per Stein’s testimony) for the time the dog started barking under Stein’s window and there is a perfect and unambiguous match of Stein’s time (10:17) for the onset of the dog’s barking with the range (10:15 to 10:20) from Fenjves and the limit (“before 10:21”) from Storfer.  But, even with the DA’s help, Karpf could not testify to this, and instead claimed a bogus arrival time (10:00 o’clock) and an exaggerated range of driving times (20 to 30 minutes) from LAX that unnecessarily muddied the waters of the time of Stein’s observation. 

               So, Karpf’s invention created more problems for himself (and the DA) than simply to go with the story that he had come on flight 862 – whether that was the truth or not.  (Flight 862 also produces results that are much closer to his original police report, which he seemed loathe to repudiate.)  The only reason I can think that he would do this is that he wanted his testimony to contain the final truth -- the fact that he made his front gate observations at about 10:39.

               HAND WAVING:   In the forgoing, I have explored a number of possibilities, and engaged in much speculation.  But, at the end of the day, all of that is hand waving.  All we know for sure is that Karpf gave mistaken testimony concerning the flight he came home on, and we do not know why he did that, what flight he did take, or when he did get back to LA.  Any direct conclusion regarding these things, based on the transcript, is no better than the hand waving I have done here.

               So, we take the position that the time of Karpf’s homecoming can only be deduced from the fact that at some later time he fled from the Akita to behind his gate and slammed it.  Heidstra heard that sound from the alley on the hill directly across from Karpf’s front gate, and since we know the time of Heidstra’s observation, we can reconstruct to find the time of Karpf’s homecoming.  Accordingly, we make that to be 10:35.

               NO AX TO GRIND – EXCEPT THE TRUTH:  The reader should realize that we do not present this information about the true flight schedules in order to advance our case about understanding the Bundy murders.  In fact, this information slightly weakens our theory.  As events stood before this discovery, and relying on Karpf’s statement that his plane got to LAX at 10:00 o’clock, the best analysis of Karpf’s homecoming was 10:35, and his time at the front gate was 10:39, exactly coinciding with Heidstra’s independent time of hearing the gate slam.  Apparently, after discounting the obfuscation of the attorneys, that is what Karpf wanted us to believe.  Since Karpf’s testimony concerning his time is now thrown into doubt (especially there is no way to reconcile his frequent statement that his plane was half an hour late), there is no independent knowledge of the time when he was at his gate, and I must rely on only the coincidence of the location -- Heidstra heard a gate clang from the same location that Karpf slammed his metal gate.

               That is not the best of all possible worlds for making our case, but the truth is the truth.

               (Karpf offered seriously mistaken testimony concerning his time of arriving at LAX.)

               Dick Wagner · Van Nuys, CA   (7/01/02)    FLIGHT.DOC

back.gif (2777 bytes)