By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor
Jurors in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial of a Solvang animal rescue operator heard audio recordings of the woman howling like a coyote, screaming obscenities and mimicking a machine gun, with her neighbors saying the escalating actions made them fearful.
“I really do believe she means us harm,” Richard Nohr testified Wednesday in the misdemeanor criminal trial of Julia Di Sieno, 57, who operates Animal Rescue Team.
Di Sieno faces 10 misdemeanor criminal charges, including two counts of stalking, two counts of making criminal threats, unlawful firearms act violation of a restraining order, possession of a deadly weapon, and two counts of contempt of court for disobeying a court order.
Judge James Rigali on Monday ruled two newer charges — assault with a deadly weapon and battery involving a different neighbor — also should included in the trial, rather than being handled later.
On Wednesday, Richard Nohr testified he and his wife had finished dinner on Oct. 4, when they heard Di Sieno yelling from the yard of her house on the adjacent Carriage Drive property.
Di Sieno could be heard shouting “you’re going down,” and then mimicking the sound of a machine gun firing.
“Knowing that she has an assault rifle, I thought the next thing would be a bullet through the window,” Richard Nohr said under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Steven Li.
“There’s some serious bottled-up rage there,” Richard Nohr said. “I cannot say I feel safe that this is just somebody venting.”
“It seems to be escalating,” he added.
He and his wife, Mary Nohr, who testified first, shared similar stories of bright spotlights shining at their property, rocks tossed against the house and music played loudly for several months.
“I think it, in my opinion, is not normal behavior, and knowing she was armed we had a serious fear for our safety,” Richard Nohr said.
During Mary Nohr’s testimony, Li directed the woman to note with colored dots the days when Di Sieno shouted at the neighbors, played loud music, tossed rocks or shined a light at their house.
At various times Di Seino can be heard calling the Nohrs “(expletive) liars,” “you whore.”
Mary Nohr said she kept a log of the episodes involving Di Sieno, describing herself as “very scared.”
Under cross examination by defense attorney Kevin Dubrall, Mary Nohr said she made complaints to Santa Barbara County Planning Division, Animal Services and other agencies about Animal Rescue Team’s operations.
When the defense attorney asked if the Nohrs had made 20 complaints about the animal rescue facility, Mary Nohr responded she did not believe they reached that number.
Dubrall also asked if the Nohrs signed a petition to prevent Di Sieno from starting Animal Rescue Team in the neighborhood.
Mary Nohr denied any neighborhood petition when Di Sieno purchased the property. Instead she said neighbors circulated petitions in 2016 amid concerns about coyote noise from the property.
The defense attorney also asked if Mary Nohr had gone outside after Di Sieno threw rocks at the house.
“I don’t need to go outside to hear the rocks,” she said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, another neighbor, Jay Bardessono, testified about a trip to nearby El Rancho Market to buy breakfast food. He said he noticed a truck following him into the parking lot where his dog escaped from his vehicle.
As Bardessono picked up the dog, the truck’s driver, Di Sieno honked the horn and accelerated her vehicle, striking his shoulder with the driver’s-side mirror.
“You could hear that someone stood on the gas and revved it,” he said.
Jurors watched security camera video of the incident
“That’s right when she hit me with her truck,” he said.
Dubrall’s cross-examination of Bardessono will begin Thursday morning.
The trial is expected to wrap up by Friday, the judge told the jury of seven men and five women after naming the two alternates to fill the panel’s two seats that became empty Wednesday.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com.