Kidnapped boy's mother did not seem stressed, witness says


A bound Julie Puffinburger did not appear in distress outside her home shortly after her 6-year-old son was kidnapped the morning of Oct. 15, 2008, a neighbor testified Monday.

Tracy Mitchell, who lived across the street from Puffinburger and her son, Cole, said she saw Puffinburger sitting at the entrance to her home with her hands and feet bound. Duct tape had been covering her mouth.

Mitchell testified that she cut off the bindings around Puffinburger's ankles with a box cutter as Puffinburger sat on a cement step, but was told by others not to do anything else until police arrived.

Under cross-examination from defense lawyer Todd Leventhal, Mitchell said she saw no tears in Puffinburger's eyes and no blood or bruises on her body.

Last week, Puffinburger's fiance, Billy Joe Murray, testified that Puffinburger was "hysterical" immediately after the boy was taken from their home, but later "froze" and became "emotionless."

Two men, Jose "Miguel" Lopez-Buelna and Luis Vega-Rubio, are being tried in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro on kidnapping and drug charges in connection with Cole's disappearance. Two other defendants, Erik Dushawn Webster and Roberto Lopez, are facing drug and money laundering charges.

Justice Department prosecutors from Washington allege Cole was abducted at gunpoint as revenge after his grandfather, Clemens Tinnemeyer, stole $4.5 million from Mexican drug traffickers.

Tinnemeyer, who is in custody, admitted on the witness stand earlier in the trial that he ran off after finding "a big pile of money" hidden in a motor home he used to deliver drugs. Authorities later found more than $3.5 million of the cash in a Riverside, Calif., storage unit.

Defense lawyers have accused the boy's mother and grandmother of staging the kidnapping to lure Tinnemeyer out of hiding with the money.

Puffinburger has denied the allegations under oath. She testified that she, Murray and Cole were in their Cherry Grove Avenue home, near Hollywood and Lake Mead boulevards, when intruders entered around 7 a.m. and took the boy at gunpoint.

Earlier Monday, as the Washington prosecutors began winding down their case, Gary McCamey, the lead FBI agent in the kidnapping investigation, testified that agents "interviewed her hard" about her son's disappearance after they learned that she failed to tell them Tinnemeyer had previously given her $60,000.

Puffinburger also lied to agents about her knowledge of a false rumor about Cole's kidnapping that Murray and a family friend had circulated weeks earlier to draw out Tinnemeyer, McCamey said.

Under cross-examination from defense lawyer Robert Draskovich, McCamey acknowledged that Puffinburger's initial untruthfulness made her an early target in her son's disappearance.

FBI agents, however, ultimately followed a trail of evidence that led to the alleged drug traffickers, McCamey testified.

Prosecutors plan to rest their case today, giving defense lawyers a chance to present witnesses.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

 

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