The murder of a small-town thief. Claims of a vast conspiracy. ‘The Trials of Frank Carson’

Frank Carson
Modesto criminal defense attorney Frank Carson.
(Craig Sanders / For The Times)

“The Trials of Frank Carson” is a story of power, politics and the law in California’s Central Valley. Frank Carson was Stanislaus County’s most controversial defense attorney, a wizard with juries and a courtroom brawler with an unapologetically caustic style. He racked up legal wins for decades. He was the terror of police and prosecutors, often accusing them personally of corruption.

When a small-time thief disappeared, police — some of them Carson’s longtime adversaries — launched a massive investigation into a spectral underworld of street hustlers, junkies and snitches. Carson was charged with murder, accused of masterminding a conspiracy. It would be one of the longest criminal trials in California history, with the flinty veteran of so many courtroom wars on trial for his life.

Here are the key figures in the murder case involving Carson and eight codefendants.

The defendants:

Frank Carson: Modesto defense attorney accused of masterminding an elaborate murder plot.

Robert Woody: Former handyman at the Pop N Cork liquor store and the government’s star witness. Charged with murder.


Georgia DeFilippo: Carson’s wife, charged with murder and conspiracy.

Christina DeFilippo: Carson’s stepdaughter, charged with conspiracy.

Baljit “Bobby” Athwal: Co-owner of Pop N Cork on East Avenue in Turlock. Charged with murder and conspiracy.

Daljit “Dee” Atwal: Co-owner of Pop N Cork with his brother. Charged with murder and conspiracy.

Walter Wells: Former California Highway Patrol officer charged with murder and conspiracy.

Scott McFarlane: CHP officer charged with conspiracy.

Eduardo Quintanar Jr.: CHP officer charged with conspiracy.

The state:

Birgit Fladager: District attorney of Stanislaus County.

Marlisa Ferreira: Chief deputy district attorney in Stanislaus County who represented the state at the preliminary hearing and at trial.

Kirk Bunch: Veteran investigator at the Stanislaus County district attorney’s office who spearheaded the investigation into Carson and his codefendants.

The victim:

Korey Kauffman: A 26-year-old scrap metal thief and methamphetamine addict from Turlock who vanished in March 2012.