By KAREN VELIE
District Court Judge Tim Covello has ruled that a video recording made during a warrantless search of a San Luis Obispo County couple’s home can be introduced in their child neglect trial paving the way for their arraignment.
Attorneys for Cheyne Orndoff and Vanessa Bedroni challenged a claim by police that they acted in good faith when they searched the couple’s home for the San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell’s misplaced gun. That search led to child neglect charges.
The question at the heart of the motion was whether police reliance on a mistake that incorrectly listed Cheyne Orndorff as a probationer violated his constitutional rights. The key issues: who made the mistake and were officers reckless.
In 2017, Orndorff’s brother, Cole, claimed he was Cheyne Orndorff when he was arrested on drug charges. Cole Orndorff eventually pled guilty to five misdemeanors, including impersonating Cheyne Orndorff. But when Cole Orndorff’s conviction was entered into the Probation Department’s criminal justice information system, the names were transposed showing Cheyne Orndorff as the person on probation.
If the probation department made the mistake, the evidence should be suppressed. If the mistake was committed by the court, it would likely be admitted. Employees of both agencies testified that they were unsure who made the error.
One of the officers at the scene testified he was aware Cheyne Orndoff was not the man suspected of finding Cantrell’s gun in a restaurant bathroom before the raid.
Orndoff’s attorney, Jason Dufurrena, argued that the officers violated his client’s constitutional rights. He also said that if case law did not support the couple’s position, it should be challenged.
In the end, Judge Covello ruled the officers’ conduct was not reckless and that the court had made the database error. In making his decision, Covello noted the “horrific nature of the home,” along with a reference to needles loaded with drugs.
A conflux of failures
For more than two years, Cheyne Orndoff had been trailed by the false probation report. In mid-2018, he was working as a counselor at Templeton High School, but was terminated because of the wrong information in the county system, he said.
Cheyne Orndoff petitioned the court to correct the record to show he was the victim in the case and not on probation, but while the court confirmed he was not on probation, he remained listed on the county criminal justice information system as on probation.
Orndoff graduated summa cum laude from Cal Poly, with a degree in psychology, in March 2018. He then applied for employment to multiple public and private organizations, including county social services, but was rejected because of the probation error.
“I can’t get a job because of this bogus bench probation,” he said. “There are times, I just feel like giving up.”
At about noon on July 10, Cantrell left her pistol in the bathroom of an El Pollo Loco restaurant. A short time later, a man walked into the bathroom, discovered the loaded and unattended firearm and took it with him.
An officer mistakenly suggested that Cheyne Orndoff was the suspect. The chief sent officers to Orndoff’s home to retrieve her gun. Another public employee misidentified Orndoff as being on probation, which led officers to conduct an unwarranted search of the couple’s home.
Even though officers did not find the chief’s gun, they put Orndoff and Bedroni’s 7 and 9-year-old daughters in foster care, their 5-year-old dog Princess in the pound, and the couple in jail for child neglect because of a dirty house, paraphernalia, and a small amount of drugs.
Shortly after the arrest, a court employee testified it took about five minutes to correct the database error that listed Orndoff as on probation.
Orndoff and Bedroni are scheduled for arraignments on Tuesday morning.