Judge tosses felony charge against woman, blasts prosecutors

By From page A3 | May 11, 2014

FAIRFIELD — A mother, the wife of an airman at Travis Air Force Base who fled her husband in December after months of alleged abuse, had a felony charge thrown out of court by a judge who said the case brought against her included the most disturbing set of facts he had heard in his decade on the bench.

Judge Robert Bowers was talking about more than what led up to the alleged crime that prosecutors insisted Shanika N. Keiffer committed. He was also talking about what authorities have done to Keiffer and her young son that culminated Friday in Bowers’ courtroom at Keiffer’s probable cause hearing.

“Enough is enough,” Bowers said repeatedly, responding to the prosecutor’s pursuit of a felony charge.

The Solano County District Attorney’s Office filed a felony animal cruelty charge against Keiffer in March. Police in Montana arrested her, took her infant son and put him into foster care. Prosecutors extradited her to Solano County, where she was jailed.

Authorities in Montana turned the baby over to his father. While locked up, Keiffer was so despondent she tried to hang herself, her defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Nick Filloy, told Bowers.

Isolated and alone

Keiffer and her husband were assigned to Travis shortly before she gave birth their son in December 2012. Military police soon became familiar with the couple because they were repeatedly called out to their home in base housing because of the husband allegedly threatening abuse, an investigator testified.

Keiffer, who grew up in foster care in rural West Virginia, had no job, no car and no family or friends in California. She also had mental health problems but stopped taking her medications while she was pregnant and while breastfeeding her newborn, Filloy said.

In September 2013, Keiffer’s airman husband got a puppy. They named it Scout.

Two months later, after her husband smashed down the front door of their home, military police ordered him out of the home and issued a no-contact order, keeping him away from Keiffer. He took his truck, moved into the airman barracks and gave her $40 to live on for a month until she was able move to Montana with her son.

During the month that she was alone with her son and the dog, she repeatedly contacted the husband’s master sergeant, telling him she did not have food or money. She told him she was feeding the dog table scraps and that the baby was being sustained with breastfeeding. In December, the master sergeant arranged to get her the truck and $241 and she left California, an investigator testified.

She left the dog behind.

‘I feel truly bad for her victimization’

A neighbor found the dog in the feces-littered backyard of Keiffer’s home. The dog looked underfed, its ribs were showing and it had outgrown the harness it had been wearing for weeks. When the harness was cut off, an infected chafing wound was uncovered.

Solano County animal control officers took the dog, which was treated by a veterinarian.

When Keiffer’s husband moved back home, he figured Keiffer had taken the dog with her. It wasn’t until investigators contacted him that he found out otherwise. He insisted the dog had been healthy when he had been ordered out of the home, an investigator testified.

Bowers, an Army veteran, said it was unconscionable that Keiffer had been put into the position of surviving on $40 with her newborn.

Near the end of the hearing, Bowers spent several minutes asking Keiffer questions. Keiffer said she had barely been able to care for her child before she got to Montana to start a new life. She said in the days before she moved, she had wanted nothing to do with the dog that she left in the backyard.

The prosecutor was unswayed.

“I understand she is a victim. I feel truly bad for her victimization,” the prosecutor told Bowers while insisting to the end that Keiffer should stand trial on the felony charge.

Bowers showed clear disdain at the prosecutor’s adamancy.

“The more I have heard the more disturbed I am,” Bowers said of the case before dismissing it.

Bowers said the dog had been neglected, but that Keiffer had been unable to care for it, so no crime had been committed.

Filloy said he expects Keiffer will soon be able to make her way back to Montana with her son. But in the meantime, with nowhere else to stay, she has no choice but to return to the home she fled.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

Discussion | 29 comments

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  • Eugene BorghelloMay 10, 2014 - 4:32 pm

    Don DuBain and his staff should truly be ashamed of themselves. The DAs office has resources that could help this woman, such as the Family Violence Center he's been bragging about. This was down right cruel and not they forced this poor woman back into the home where she was being abused. If the young lady contacts my office through Jess Sullivan I will pay her way back home.

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  • Jose MadreMay 11, 2014 - 12:19 am

    So Eugene borghello, duBains's staff should be ashamed too? Does that include Krishna Abrams, who you openly support? She IS part of his staff, correct?

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  • AnonymousMay 11, 2014 - 9:47 am

    Has she applied for the services DuBain fought so hard to help put in place? They don't go out seeking victims. Did she go to a food bank so she didn't have to live off $40? Is the military pursuing and getting the soldier help? I know MANY victims of domestic violence that wouldn't have left an animal tied up. You don't have to pay $75 to say you found a stray. I don't agree with them dragging her back from Montana but I'm betting their are supervisors in place or people like Abrams that signed off on this. When I worked I had supervisors, the CEO stepped in to discipline rarely, meaning yes DuBain is DA but Abrams has just as much ability to bring this to his or other managers attention. DuBain obviously wasn't trying this case.

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  • hrmffMay 11, 2014 - 5:58 pm

    Mr. Borghello, aren't you a criminal defense defense attorney investigator? Namely, one who uses Honeychurch on a regular basis? The Family Justice Center is something Mr. DuBain has every right to be proud of. What exactly have you or any criminal defense attorney you contract with done for victims lately??? Furthermore, what is cruel is the disgusting way this woman treated her dog/her husband's dog. It's an outrage! If you can't care for a being, then pick up the darn phone and tell someone! It is not an issue of money to CALL someone to get this dog out of her control! Ridiculous!

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  • hrmffMay 11, 2014 - 6:48 pm

    One more thing Mr. Borghello, if you're so interested in rescuing this woman then you don't need to wait for her to contact you through Jess Sullivan. 1) we know she doesn't reach out for help when there is a being suffering. 2) you have her full name. So get on it! Put your money where your mouth is and go but her a ticket home. YOU be proactive in helping someone you deem as a victim.

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  • General Fadi BasemMay 10, 2014 - 10:41 pm

    The judge should be asking at least one other question. He should ask why someone with admitted mental problems is giving birth to a baby. Does she really have mental problems? Does anybody who has more than two brain cells to rub together move to Montana when winter is approaching? She can't take care of a dog and she is squeezing out a baby? And the taxpayers keep doing the same things over and over and over with the same result....At least Mr. Borghello has the right idea--bus ticket to Montana. I just hope those ICBMs in Montana don't get retargeted to Fairfield once the Montana residents figure out we are bussing welfare for life residents to their state. Please--let's not get MIRV upset...

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  • The MisterMay 11, 2014 - 6:45 am

    Blaming the victim? Do you work for the DA's office too? What a class act you are (sarcasm).

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  • archieMay 11, 2014 - 6:40 am

    Judge made the right call here. Its ridiculous to pursue felony charges over a dog when you consider the circumstances. And what about the Airman???? Maybe the prosecutor should go for some human cruelty charges on HIM, rather than animal cruelty on her.

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  • The MisterMay 11, 2014 - 6:44 am

    Is the whole DA's office this power mad and blind? A fish rots from the head first. Time for Don du Bain to be voted out.

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  • PornacMay 11, 2014 - 8:01 am

    Poor dog.

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  • just a thoughtMay 11, 2014 - 8:07 am

    Just more apologist liberal b.s. here. This woman should certainly face the charges filed regardless of her upbringing, mental health, and alleged abuse. It would not have taken more than 20 minutes time to stop by the shelter which is within a few miles of the Travis gates and leave the dog on her way out of town. She is no better than her alleged abuser. Dont agree? Its not much of a stretch to say in this county she could have left her child behind in the same fashion and been excused because she had a rough childhood, was depressed, abused, etc.

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  • GemmaMay 11, 2014 - 8:40 am

    You have to PAY $75 to drop an animal off. At least that's what it cost years ago. I'm not saying leaving the animal was right. I'm just saying if she went in there to drop it off, they would NOT accept it without the money. That's why you always hear about dogs being tied to the fence at night. I'm not saying the shelter is wrong for requiring the $75 either. It costs to operate and house the animals. The first shirt got her the truck and $200?!?! Really? Wow, way to help out a dependent. Also, if she was forced to go back on base to stay with the psycho, that makes me think the AF failed yet again, in not kicking the airman out. How long before we read about this case escalating to extreme violence?

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  • GemmaMay 11, 2014 - 8:18 am

    WTH happened to Supervisors, First Sgt's, Family Support Center, Mental Health Clinic, etc? Sweet Jesus. I am an extreme animal lover, but you can't give what you don't have. She didn't kill the dog, and it wasn't her dog to take. Yes, she should have done something, but what? No car, so she can't take it to the shelter, and she didn't have $75 to turn the dog over to the shelter to begin with. If she did, I'm sure the loser airman would have come after her for that. WHY is this woman in trouble, and I'm hearing nothing about the person responsible for her care-her HUSBAND? The one who receives BAS for her and their child? The one who HAS to provide for them? So we really pursued someone to Montana, for leaving a dog to starve to death, but we can't solve crimes here, involving humans? What was she supposed to do? So many people failed this woman and child, and most of them are on the base, that claims to look out for it's people. When I was AD, my husband got a ticket, and I had to see the First Shirt, because "he's my responsibility." So, tickets are serious, but abuse and neglect are ok? Just move to the dorms? He broke the front door down, and he gets tapped on the wrist, and sent to the dorms? I'm just disgusted and blown away, and really wish I wouldn't have read this article.

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  • ConcernedMay 11, 2014 - 8:26 am

    Is there anyway we can get some help to this woman?

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  • GemmaMay 11, 2014 - 8:36 am

    Her husband works in Security Forces aka he's a cop on base. Lovely. Also, when they said they were stationed at Travis in Dec 12, that's when he got out of TECH SCHOOL! So, lets just cut our losses AF, and let him go! Put him out! He's violent, he doesn't need to have the job he has with his violent tendencies, and he's just not a good fit for the military. Hopefully he's already out.

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  • just a thoughtMay 11, 2014 - 9:45 am

    Lets use facts we know and play a little devils advocate. We know she is unstable, suicidal, and unfit as a caretaker. We know he is an airman, her husband, and has been issued a no contact order. Without knowing any other facts we can make any assumptions we like. Maybe he isnt violent at all? Maybe she is out of control and is the driving force in disturbance calls at the home? Maybe there has been efforts to help her? Maybe he kicked the door down because she was threatening to harm herself or the child? Maybe a no contact order to protect the airman? Or maybe he is violent and the AF has dropped the ball? A lot of maybes here but we are in a realm of public opinion here and have a lot of unanswered questions on this one. Yet the fact remains that she did break a law and treat an animal in an inhumane fashion. And havent there been documented correlations between mental illness and animal cruelty?

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  • The MisterMay 11, 2014 - 8:47 am

    Did anyone read the paid political letter that pops up on the DR this morning from John Coffer, Denis Honeychurch, Dan Russo, Amy Morton, Barry Newman and Vincent R. Maher? If you haven't, you need to check it out. With very clear examples, they really expose the true effect of DA du Bain on our county... and it ain't been good! It doesn't look all that good for the Sheriff's Office either... but the main thrust is about du Bain's incompetence (or some other reason for his actions) that have jeopardized the people of Solano County and how he has lost any professional integrity he may ever have had.

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  • HrmffMay 11, 2014 - 5:50 pm

    Mister, yes, I read the paid advertisement in the papers today paid for by local criminal defense attorneys one of which is the husband of Cathy Coffer whom was let go from the DA's office when DuBain took over. Guess how moved I am to support Abrams due to the fact that some criminal defense attorneys are supporting her? I'm not. I'm not moved one iota. In fact, to the contrary. It is unseemly that she has sought their support. Furthermore, the article in the Times Herald on Saturday, the 10th, exposes Abrams as being unstable, bitter and not easy to get along with. Doesn't sound like she is made for management. After all, the deputies DA's have asked the public to re-elct DuBain for a reason. They work with her day in and day out. They know her character. Beside all of this, she has been exposed on her residency. She, at the very best is a carpet bagger that moved into her deputy sheriff boyfriend's home just hours before filing. Sounds like integrity is an issue for Ms. Abrams but the issue is hers is in serious question. So, before you go wanting to vote someone like her, you should rethink about how the grass isn't necessarily greener. Our household is giving our vote to Don DuBain.

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  • Jose MadreMay 11, 2014 - 9:35 pm

    So the DA's who work for duBain backed him. Shocker! Funny thing is ALL of the law enforcement unions in the county back Abrams. And those that don't back Abrams but originally backed duBain, pulled their endorsement to remain "neutral". Hmmmmm.....interesting. So defense attorney's back Abrams. Law Enforcement back Abrams. (Except for that little feller across the street that also needs votes, but his rank and file support her), the group that deals with rape victims backs her, but we're supposed to jump on board with the same people that literally WORK FOR DUBAIN CURRENTLY? Of course they're going to say he's great!!! I'll also be interested in ocean front property in the lovely state of Wyoming.

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  • hrmffMay 12, 2014 - 12:11 pm

    Jose, you probably don't realize this but the police union reps that voted to back Abrams consist of a about 15 officers. They voted without consulting with the rank and file. They voted without taking a vote from all police officers. In fact, I know many police officers were angry that they were not given a choice and DIDN'T even know they were voting. Additionally, you are incorrect, not all law enforcement unions backed her, Also, it may come as a surprise to you that the deputy DA's voted to vote. After they decided they would vote, they voted for Don DuBain. Their vote has remained private. DuBain does not know who participated in the vote or what their vote was. I think that says a lot. In terms of the the "rape victims" you are referring to, I'm guessing you are talking about SafeQuest. Safequest and it's leadership has had a lot of problems with their leadership. They want to run a monopoly in this county on who gets funding grants from the state (appox $500,000 a year). I say the more help the better. You should look at the broad base of support DuBain has. All community leaders and most victims advocates support DuBain. They have worked with him as DA for the last 3 years. If they didn't think he really cared and was really making an impact, they could go with his opponent but they didn't.

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  • hrmffMay 14, 2014 - 2:48 pm

    Jose, the deputy DAs voted on whether or not to vote. Then, they decided they would vote but keep the vote private, not letting either candidate know WHO voted or WHOM they voted for. Then, they voted to endorse Don. Please feel free to pick up your phone and call any of them and ask why. As far as the police unions endorsement goes (approx 15 individuals) voting for the masses go, they have not endorsed a DA in over 20 years. They endorsed Paulson's opponent the two times his seat was contested. They are never happy with the DA. Have you watched any crime dramas lately? Ever notice the police are always at odds with the DA in dramas? Art imitates life. The Po Po are never happy with ANY DA.

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  • Rich GiddensMay 11, 2014 - 9:35 am

    Again, Jess----for goodness sakes---WHICH PROSECUTOR? Name them please!

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  • mike kirchubelMay 11, 2014 - 10:05 am

    Again, i am not reporting an abusive comment. I was merely scrolling down the comments when the "report abusive comment" button was trggered.

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  • The MisterMay 11, 2014 - 10:21 am

    @ Mike... you might want to move a bit to the right so that won't happen again.

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  • George Thorogood & The Destroyers - Move It On Over (lyrics)May 11, 2014 - 12:21 pm


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  • Really...May 11, 2014 - 12:30 pm

    If some church wants to do a good deed they should take up a collection for this woman... She could use some help... and her son is the type they used to/still do? "abduct" for the MK Ultra program.... Please Pray for her

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  • Skeptic ScroogeMay 11, 2014 - 11:25 pm

    Keiffer should have taken dog to pound. California, Montana, west Virginia, its all the same, you have a pet you cant feed you give it to someone who can.

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  • Julie AndersonMay 12, 2014 - 3:13 pm

    I have the photos of the dog This little dog was abused for MONTHS...The photos clearly show how this animal could have died had he not been rescued when he was...I know this whole story and what is being said here is a whole lot of nonsense...they are painting her as all victim and that is not what was witnessed in this crime.

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  • hrmffMay 14, 2014 - 2:39 pm

    Julie, it's not like Jess, especially during this DA race, has been reporting accurately. He basically tells half-truths and spins the stories in the most negative light for the DAs office. He is very skilled at that. He probably has Krishna edit the stories before they go to print. Sad but true.

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