The David Attias murder trial continued Tuesday with testimony from character witnesses, including Attias’ suitemates, all of whom refused to make eye contact with the defendant.
Jurors listened as witnesses detailed aspects of Isla Vista’s weekend environment and Attias’ behavior leading up to Feb. 23, 2001.
Attias is charged with nine felonies – including four counts of second-degree murder – for striking and killing Nicholas Bourdakis, Christopher Divis, Elie Israel and Ruth Levy, and seriously injuring Albert Levy.
During five hours of testimony, Santa Barbara District Attorney Patrick McKinley attempted to establish a portrait of Attias as a volatile and antisocial freshman, while defense attorney Jack Earley tried to prove that Attias’ peers had been unaccepting and mean to the defendant, whom he characterized as mentally ill.
Many witnesses described Attias as a “normal guy” when they first met him, but said that as time went on, his behavior gradually became more and more bizarre.
Joshua Wolf, a Santa Barbara City College student, lived on Attias’ floor at Francisco Torres. He said he observed Attias’ behavior become progressively more aggressive in the days leading up to the incident.
Wolf said he saw Attias on the evening of the incident and Attias told him he was driving to Del Playa Drive “to get laid.” Wolf said he advised Attias to park at Freebird Burritos and walk to Del Playa.
Terrence Chew, Attias’ former roommate, said he would characterize Attias as confrontational, inconsiderate, worried and twitchy.
“He was paranoid. He was always worried that people were trying to steal his stuff,” Chew said “It seemed like he only had friends for short amount of time and then there would be somebody new.”
Chew said living with Attias was often difficult. He recalled a discussion in which he suggested that Attias should move out; the comment resulted in an argument and Attias’ reaction was volatile. Chew said he witnessed Attias react “explosively” on other occasions as well.
“Dave was on the phone with some girl. He said he didn’t think her boyfriend was good and that he should kill [the boyfriend],” Chew said.
Earley argued that Attias’ erratic behavior resulted from mental illness and asked Chew whether he had any knowledge or experience with mental illness. Chew answered that he did not.
Earley asked Chew whether their floor was nicknamed “The Floor that Never Sleeps,” alluding to its reputation as a party floor. Chew said that it was, but that a resident did not need to party or play loud music in order to be popular.
Chris Holmes, Attias’ former suitemate, said his relationship with Attias never deteriorated because they “never really talked much in the first place. He was always distant. No one from the 60 or so residents on the floor had any particular liking for him,” he said. “He would never really look you in the eye.”
Holmes said Attias’ erratic behavior the week before the accident was “normal for Dave.”
Earley repeatedly asked witnesses if they knew that Attias was mentally ill and taking medication.
The case will continue at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.