Easterling freed from Jail-Murder Charges Dropped

Chris Reynolds was appointed by the Sonoma County Superior Court to investigate the matter on behalf of Mr. Easterling. Mr. Reynolds was able to interview the pathologist and the expert reversed his opinion and indicated he could not rule out accidental drowning. Mr. Reynolds investigation also determined the experts failed to account for type of life vest worn by Ms. Easterling.

VALLEJO MAN FREED FROM JAIL, VOWS TO SUE COUNTY: RELEASE COMES DAY AFTER MURDER CHARGE DROPPED EASTERLING SAYS PROSECUTORS WITHHELD INFORMATION

Published on June 24, 2006

© 2006- The Press Democrat

BYLINE:    PAUL PAYNE

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PAGE: B1

Corbin Easterling walked out of the Sonoma County Jail on Friday, a day after the district attorney said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of killing his wife during a jet ski outing on San Pablo Bay in 2004.Easterling, who had been in custody for 19 months, posted bail on two unrelated offenses.As he left the jail, he vowed to sue the county, accusing prosecutors of intentionally withholding information that would have proven his innocence.But Easterling said his first priority was taking family members who remained by his side to a restaurant for a “filet mignon, three-inches thick, and a lobster tail.”“It feels great,” the 37-year-old Vallejo resident said as he stepped into the warm afternoon sun, clad in blue pants and a yellow dress shirt. “It just feels great.”His release came one day after District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua dropped a murder charge because a forensic pathologist concluded that Easterling‘s wife, Jennifer Jevarian Easterling, could have died from accidental drowning.Prosecutors had accused Easterling of assaulting his wife in the chilly water after their jet ski ran aground and sank Oct. 11, 2004, leaving the couple stranded overnight.They had an abusive relationship, both had criminal records and problems with drugs and alcohol, according to court records and investigators. He was awaiting an Oct. 24 trial. Now, Easterling said, he has been referred to a civil lawyer in San Francisco, and plans to pursue custody of his 3-year-old daughter, Dixie Lee, and move to Lake Almanor in Plumas County, where he and his wife had bought a home before she died. He lashed out at the District Attorney’s Office, which he said knew he was innocent based on statements from a potential expert witness.  Easterling said Dr. Alan Steinman, described as a nationally recognized expert in occupational health and environmental medicine and a retired Coast Guard surgeon general, told prosecutors in 2005 that his conclusions would be more helpful to the defense.  “I would never kill my wife,” Easterling said in a jail house interview a few hours before his release. “I loved her with all my heart.”

“I am going to sue this county and I will win,” he said.

Larry Scoufos, the assistant district attorney, said there was no factual basis for such a claim. The pathologist said Jennifer Easterling‘s death might have been accidental, not that Corbin Easterling was innocent, he said.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Scoufos said.

Deputy County Counsel Bill Adams said Easterling would have to prove intentional wrongdoing to prevail. Prosecutors are immune from suits against former defendants if they can show they followed due process, he said.

“Once we received the information, we immediately moved to dismiss the case,” Scoufos said.

Easterling also expressed bitterness toward his father-in-law, Richard Jevarian, whom he called from a cell phone the night of the crash, asking for help.

Jevarian waited until the next morning to report the crash to the Coast Guard. When a rescue crew arrived, Jennifer Easterling was dead.

Friday was the first taste of freedom for Easterling since his arrest on Nov. 23, 2004.

He said he spent most of the time thinking about his wife and daughter, who is in the custody of his wife’s family, he said.

Easterling said his stepfather, Robert White of Vallejo, and White’s girlfriend, Ethel Cotter, were his only visitors except for lawyers.

Easterling‘s mother died of cancer about three years ago and his father was mostly estranged, Cotter said.

The former murder defendant said he would live with White while preparing his lawsuit.

“It’s been so horrible,” Easterling said. “I could not grieve for my wife. If I cried they’d put me on suicide watch.”

After he winds up affairs, which include placing a wreath in the spot in the bay where his wife died, Easterling said he would move to Lake Almanor, about 10 miles from Susanville and start a new life.

But first he has to clear up misdemeanor warrants from Plumas and Solano counties that he said were driving related. His family posted $14,500 bail Friday for his release.

“Right now we’re going to take it a day at a time,” said Cotter, who drove from Vallejo to pick up Easterling. “He’s got to get his stuff straightened out.”