SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Did Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Victor Valdez instruct his female confidential informant to inject a fugitive murder suspect with heroin? And did Deputy Valdez have an inappropriate sexual relationship with that same female informant?
Those are the key questions at a court hearing underway in Santa Ana that's already featured Valdez pleading the fifth, another deputy admitting he occasionally tipped her off to police activity and several deputies testifying that their team nicknamed the informant "Cooties."
On Friday, the informant herself -- Adriean Vasquez -- took the witness stand after securing an immunity deal with the Orange County District Attorney's Office because she was expected to testify about injecting accused killer Craig Tanber with heroin on the night he was captured in 2015.
But did Vasquez inject Tanber at the direction of Valdez so the killer could be captured more easily and possibly confess? It's a cliffhanger for now, as the judge barred the public from the courtroom during her testimony Friday after she expressed concerns for her safety.
The story that is so full of twists and turns began at Patsy's Irish Pub in Laguna Niguel back in September of 2015. Tanber was with a girlfriend, Elizabeth Thornburg, when she got into a dispute with 22-year old Shayan Mazroei. Security footage from the bar appears to show Tanber beckoning Mazroei outside and then stabbing him to death.
"This four years is like a nightmare, every minute of that," said Shayan's mother Shahzad Mazroei, who is bewildered by the delays in bringing Tanber to trial. Mazroei describes her only son and best friend as sweet, hard-working and kind.
Tanber's public defender, Alisha Montoro, is asking a judge to toss out the murder charges due to what she calls outrageous governmental misconduct.
Tanber, who'd been released from prison three months before the killing after serving time for voluntary manslaughter, was on the run for several days before investigators got a tip he might be in the Garden Grove area.
Valdez contacted one of his confidential informants, Adriean Vasquez, a known heroin addict and convicted felon. She is also the mother of Tanber's son.
Vasquez was given $300 by Valdez to get a room at Motel 6 in Westminster in hopes that she could lure Tanber into a trap for the team hoping to capture the suspected killer. Deputies surveilled Vasquez as she then went to a known drug area and eventually returned to the motel.
In the hours that followed, a SWAT team descended on the motel and deputies from the North Gang Enforcement Team, who call themselves the "Jumpout Boys," assisted with the surveillance.
In testimony this week, several deputies were asked about a series of crude text messages sent during the hours-long stake-out. In those messages, deputies referred to informant Vasquez as a "dumb bitch" and "ho bag" and by her nickname "Cooties." An OCSD sergeant testified the jokes were a way to pass the time on a long night of surveillance.
Public Defender Montoro alleges that Valdez had an inappropriate sexual relationship with the informant Vasquez and that he instructed her to "inject Tanber with heroin until Tanber passed out," so he could be "easily arrested and provided investigators with a full confession."
Once a SWAT team stormed the motel room early the next morning, Tanber was taken into custody and police found three syringes, a spoon, aluminum foil and a hollowed-out pen, according to court documents.
Valdez has denied having a sexual relationship with his informant, but when asked under oath at a 2016 court hearing whether he'd ever done "anything to urge, prompt, or whatever Ms. Vasquez to administer any sort of narcotics or drugs to defendant Tanber so as to assist" in the team's apprehension of him, -- Valdez responded with, "I don't recall ever having that conversation."
Valdez was supposed to be the first witness at the hearing this week, but he pleaded the fifth. The OCDA's office wants him to testify, so he now has immunity and is expected to take the stand next week.
Valdez was criminally investigated by OCSD investigators for his relationship with Vasquez, for failing to properly book evidence and for secretly recording telephone calls with two prosecutors. The DA's office declined to file charges. An internal investigation by OCSD resulted in him being docked about a month's pay.
The informant, Adriean Vasquez, took the stand briefly on Wednesday and quickly dropped some bombshell allegations against Valdez.
She testified that he returned heroin to her that officers from another city had seized and that she sent provocative photos of her private parts to Valdez at his request.
When asked by Public Defender Montoro if she had the impression Valdez was trying to sext with her, Vasquez responded, "when he asked me to call him 'Daddy,' I figured that was where that was going."
What the informant Vasquez testified to on Friday is a mystery for now. The judge barred the public from the courtroom at her request. She says she fears for her safety.
Vasquez has a long rap sheet and a mother you might recognize - Gina Peterson of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" fame.
Vasquez has been in the news before. In 2003, she was arrested and later convicted of running a meth lab out of Gina and George Peterson's multi-million-dollar home in Laguna Niguel.
It's a salacious case, but murder victim Shayan Mazroei's mother wants people to remember that the core of this story is her son and the murder that devastated her family.
The family is pushing the DA's office to classify the killing as a hate crime, pointing to alleged racist insults hurled by Tanber's girlfriend that night - and Tanber's membership in the white supremacist gang "Public Enemy No. 1."
"He is my only child, and he was my friend, and he was everything to me," said Shahzad Mazroei.
Did OCSD deputy order confidential informant to inject fugitive murder suspect with heroin?
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