YUBA CITY, Calif. — There are some people in Sarah Garibay‘s life who might be angry enough to burn down her house; the self-described former paid escort admits to breaking many hearts across California’s prune country.
She never suspected, though, that a call seeking comfort and advice from the county district attorney — a former lover — would put him under suspicion too.
“It baffled me,” she said.
Sutter County DA Carl Adams unusual hands-on involvement in a lowly fire investigation, on top of the woeful texts sent to Garibay proclaiming jealousy of her other suitors, prompted Yuba City police last month to name him as an arson fire suspect in a search warrant affidavit.
Other potential suspects include a wealthy married Sikh fruit farmer, a longtime client who is the alleged father of the woman’s year-old baby, and the woman’s boyfriend at the time.
Her 70-year-old estranged husband is not.
“I’ve made some bad choices with men,” the center of this love quadrangle, 32-year-old Garibay, told The Associated Press recently in a bid to clear Adams’ name. She said she doesn’t think — and never told police — that Adams should be an arson suspect.
Another bad choice was an ex-boyfriend now serving a 12-year-prison term for killing a local physician in 2010 when he caught the two in the act, she said. The district attorney’s office granted Garibay immunity for her testimony, which in hindsight has raised eyebrows across the community.
“There was in no way an exchange of sex for favors in the first trial. It makes for good headlines and soap opera, but it’s not the case,” she said. “I only met him this year.”
Adams, 65, seemingly was a pillar of the community — a Mason, Rotary Club officer and past president of the California District Attorneys Association.
The people of this town an hour north of Sacramento were shocked to learn their eight-term DA had been involved with an escort and was on the wrong side of an arson case.
“The hardest part, unfortunately, is not knowing if the allegations are true. If it’s true, it’s unfortunate because people put their trust in him,” Fotine Halikashkopriva said in front of her popular deli.
Adams, a jowly grandfather with a bushy mustache and large wire glasses, has kept a low profile recently and isn’t talking to the press, though he did tell the Marysville Appeal-Democrat at one point: “As far as my position in office, I never did anything illegal, unprofessional or unethical.”
The pastor of the Yuba City Church of Glad Tidings disagrees and placed a recent ad in the entertainment section of the local newspaper demanding a grand jury investigation. “What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who pervert the law … they prey on the weak and the disadvantaged,” wrote Dave Bryan, quoting Isaiah.
The Yuba City police turned the investigation over to the California Attorney General’s Office. Spokesmen for both agencies have declined to comment.
The affair was long over by the time someone set her house on fire, Garibay said, and several other suitors recently had expressed anger, including the married man she sued for child support four days before the arson. The man did not return messages.
Others with a grudge might be the scorned wives of Yuba City. “Sleeping with a bunch of married men and cheating on my husband is only going to create drama and hurt a bunch of people,” she said.
Garibay said she met Adams last winter when she sought out the DA through his Facebook page. He remembered her name. “Before long, we were meeting up for coffee at Starbucks,” she said.
There was a mutual attraction, she said. When the affair ended a month later, they agreed to remain friends. So when her house burned down in July, she called on Adams for support.
“What do you do at a time like that? You call a friend that might help. When your friend is the Sutter County DA, you call him,” her attorney Roberto Marquez said. “She never once named Carl, and to this day she believes he should not be a suspect.”
Yuba City fire officials told detectives they thought it was odd that Adams showed up at the fire scene to tell investigator Bubba Stoddard to look at the alleged father of Garibay’s baby as a suspect. Then Adams followed up with an email to police, according to an affidavit.
Adams seemed to know that flammable liquids were used in the bedroom, the affidavit said, but investigators said they don’t recall sharing those details. Then the investigation revealed text messages on Adams’ phone in which he agonized over Garibay’s lovers.
The DA told police he has an alibi: He was home with his wife and daughters that night.
Garibay said she has a sex addiction, and this public airing of her dirty laundry has been painful.
“The people judging me have never walked a mile in my shoes,” she said. She paused and added remorsefully: “Had I known where this would have ended up, I would have never pursued Carl.”