- FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
- FATE UNKOWN : Patrick Wollett was convicted for the 2007 murder of Joshua Houlgate. He has awaited sentencing for nearly three months, but a new trial may be on the way after his previous attorney stepped down, citing a conflict in the case.
Sitting behind a sheet of glass and speaking through a tinny-sounding phone line at the SLO County Jail, Wollett told New Times he had one short conference with his former attorney, Greg Jacobson, since he was arrested in late 2007. He wasn’t allowed to testify and was otherwise kept silent by Jacobson, he said.
“I guess he decided that I wasn’t smart enough to testify,” Wollett said with a sarcastic smirk.
Jacobson removed himself from the case, but only after Wollett was convicted of first-degree murder and about to be sentenced, possibly to life in prison. Though Jacobson never elaborated publicly, he cited a “conflict on the record.” He stepped down shortly after Houlgate’s family sent a letter to the court saying they believed Wollett wasn’t as culpable as was alleged and others may have been more involved but were never brought to trial. Jacobson defended at least one such individual multiple times in the past and had the name barred from Wollett’s trial. The sole eyewitness to Houlgate’s murder, Sarah Lonsinger-Rey, had a relationship with that individual.
To date, Jacobson hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment.
McCormick was reluctant to comment while he reviews the dense file that has accumulated for the case, but said he will definitely seek a new trial based on inadequate representation and possible jury misconduct.
“Well, the family believes that the attorney for Mr. Wollett did not represent him appropriately,” McCormick told New Times. “And until I read the entire transcript, I really don’t have an opinion.”
He added of Jacobson, “He’ll definitely be subpoenaed by the prosecution in this case to counter any claims that I will put in front of him.”
Speaking from the jail, Wollett seemed uninterested in the case’s legal intricacies. Instead of speaking about them, he pleaded his innocence and said the facts of the trial were grossly misrepresented and cherry picked by the prosecution. During the trial, the prosecution argued that Wollett and Chad Westbrook—who was convicted and sentenced to 67 years to life—killed Houlgate because Houlgate was having sex with Lonsinger-Rey, who was previously engaged to Wollett’s brother Paul.
“It was a lie,” he said of the ascribed motive. “They made up something and ran with it.”
Lonsinger-Rey testified she and Houlgate had sex in Wollett’s mobile home in SLO, fell asleep, and awoke to Wollett and Westbrook hitting them. She said Westbrook then pulled a gun, shot Houlgate at point-blank range, and both assailants fled the trailer.
According to Wollett, he never met Houlgate before that day, but let him stay at his place because Westbrook and Houlgate were friends. When Houlgate and Lonsinger-Rey had sex, Wollett said he told Houlgate to leave.
“He told me off,” Wollett remembered of Houlgate. “He told me, ‘Fuck you.’”
There were about a half-dozen people in the mobile home that night, and most had been taking methamphetamine, according to court records.
Wollett went outside and texted a friend that he was scared because someone he didn’t know wouldn’t leave, he said. He went on, “I remember telling [Westbrook] that he needed to make him leave. ‘It’s your friend.’”
Wollett said he grabbed a pipe, Westbrook grabbed a bat, and they told Houlgate to leave. A fight ensued, and though Wollett admitted he hit Houlgate, he said Westbrook suddenly ran to another room, grabbed a shotgun he brought with him, and shot Houlgate as he tried to escape. Then Westbrook pointed the gun at Lonsinger-Rey, Wollett said. “And I screamed at him, ‘What are you doing?’
“He told me to go over the fence, and I was just doing what he told me. I was scared shitless. I’d never seen anything like that in my life.”
Wollett was due for sentencing on Nov. 9, but his case was put off until Jan. 25. McCormick said he would file a motion for a new trial in about three weeks.
Asked about his former attorney, Wollett said, “Would it be slander if I said my lawyer was a piece of crap?”