A retired Eureka fisherman who was convicted of the murder of his friend of 30 years earlier this month has been sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
David Kobak, 77, was give a 15 years to life sentence for the murder of Frederick Loftus, 59, on Aug. 25, 2017. He was given an additional 25 years to life sentence for using a firearm in the commission of the murder. Both sentences will be served consecutively in state prison, said Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis.
“I know this isn’t how either of you wanted to end your lives,” Elvine-Kreis said to Kobak after the sentence was delivered, wishing him luck. Elvine-Kreis noted Kobak, who appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit and looking frail, has been treated for prostate cancer while in custody and is also “suffering from some type of mental issue.”
Ahead of the sentencing, Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo submitted two motions: one to have the court do an independent review of the case to see if there was enough evidence to reduce the sentence to voluntary manslaughter and another to have the firearms allegation dropped.
The independent review is a safeguard to ensure Kobak isn’t punished for a more severe crime than was committed, Russo said, and there’s reasonable evidence that the charge should be voluntary manslaughter rather than second-degree murder.
This case is particularly difficult because there’s little evidence and the main piece of evidence is Kobak’s confession, which was taken while he was under the influence of alcohol and had experienced something traumatic, Russo said.
It also matters that there wasn’t a motive because it’s highly unlikely a person would shoot a friend of 30 years over a petty argument, Russo said. Instead, the evidence suggests there was considerable provocation and Kobak shot Loftus under extreme emotion and defense of posture, he said.
Deputy District Attorney Whitney Timm said the physical evidence doesn’t support reducing the charge because it didn’t support the idea a sudden quarrel took place.
The third element of the voluntary manslaughter charge is whether a reasonable sober person would have acted that way, Timm said, which in this case they wouldn’t have.
“This is the right verdict,” Timm said.
Elvine-Kreis denied both of the motions from Russo. In terms of the independent review, Elvine-Kreis said “all the questions can’t be answered” and the jury spent several hours considering the charges, so he wasn’t going to get in the way of the jury’s verdict.
In terms of denying the motion to drop the firearms allegation, Elvine-Kreis said, “We have an individual that’s not with us anymore and the gun is the reason.”
If there wasn’t a gun in Kobak’s house, it’s unlikely Loftus would be dead now, Elvine-Kreis said.
Several of Loftus’s friends and family members were in court Friday morning in tears. Four of them delivered victim impact statements and talked about how all they had left of Loftus was text messages and memories.
Loftus’s sister and daughter said Loftus never had anything bad to say about Kobak and it came as a real shock to learn Kobak had shot Loftus.
Crystal LoManto, Loftus’s daughter, said she thought it was an accident when she first heard, but as the details unraveled, she was shocked to learn about the vicious way in which her father died.
LoManto said through tears she lies awake at night thinking of her father in a “pool of blood.”
She talked about all the things her family was stripped of because of the murder, including Loftus’s “big laugh, humor, the way he would answer the phone” or pause to collect his thoughts. Her son would never get to go on fishing trips with his grandfather and Kobak would never get to make pancakes for his granddaughters again, she said.
“And all David can say was he got pissy with me,” LoManto said. ” … He ripped my once lively father to shreds with no explanation.”
LoManto finished with Psalm 58.
Kobak was arrested for Loftus’s murder on the evening of Aug. 25, 2017, after he called 911 and said he shot his friend. The two fishermen had been friends for 30 years and Loftus had been staying with Kobak for about six weeks before the murder.