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Mother, Wife, Brother Refuse to Talk to Grand Jury : Slaying Suspect’s Kin in Jail for Keeping Silent

Times Staff Writer

Perry Hunter, 23, of Garden Grove, a suspect in the shooting death of his mother’s boyfriend, is under investigation by the Orange County Grand Jury but remains free while his case is pending.

Other members of his family, however, are not faring as well. Hunter’s mother, brother and wife --who was his girlfriend at the time of the shooting--are in the Orange County Jail. All three have refused to testify against him, and are in jail on what lawyers call “you-keep-the-key” terms. In other words, they will be freed as soon as they agree to testify before the grand jury.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard King, who is handling Hunter’s case, has refused even to acknowledge that the grand jury is investigating, but he did acknowledge that the two women and Hunter’s brother are in jail.

Hunter’s brother, Robert Barnett, 35, has been in jail since February on a one-year sentence for drunken driving. Hunter’s mother, Louise, 55, and his wife, Deborah Warren, 21, were found in contempt and sent to jail two weeks ago.

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According to attorneys familiar with the case, the two women could remain there until July 1, when the present grand jury members’ terms expire and they lose jurisdiction over the case.

If the new grand jury picks up where the previous one left off, the women could remain in jail or be returned to custody soon after their release.

Hunter was arrested shortly after Joseph Hessig, 25, was shot on Nov. 11, 1984, in the Garden Grove apartment he shared with Louise Hunter. Barnett told police that his brother kicked the apartment door open and began shooting at Hessig.

But at Hunter’s preliminary hearing in April, the two women and Barnett refused to testify against him. The only evidence was a telephone call from Louise Hunter to police, reporting that Hessig had beaten her and chased her with a butcher knife, and that a son of hers would be “after him.”

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When Municipal Judge Ross Bigler threw out the case against Hunter for insufficient evidence, King took the case to the grand jury.

Louise Hunter and Warren were ordered jailed for five days after the preliminary hearing but were released on appeal without spending a night in jail. They were returned to jail after they refused to testify before the grand jury, Louise Hunter on June 12 and Warren on June 14.

Larry Bruce, attorney for Warren, said his client regards her being jailed as “ridiculous.”

“She really doesn’t know anything that could help the prosecutors anyway,” Bruce said.

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He added that his client believes she is protected by a wife’s privilege not to testify against her husband because they were “the same as husband and wife” at the time of the shooting. They were wed later.


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