Veteran Calif. district attorney faces scrutiny over house fire, affair with onetime escort

The veteran district attorney in a largely rural Northern California county is caught in a story fit for the tabloids, with the 65-year-old grandfather and former Rotary Club president named as a suspect in a fire that gutted the home of a former escort with whom he had an affair.

Sutter County District Attorney Carl Adams was one of several suitors of Sarah Garibay, 32, who showed police text messages from Adams saying he was jealous of her other lovers.

Garibay said she had a brief affair with Adams earlier this year and told investigators she had two other lovers who had recently expressed anger or jealousy toward her. Yet she said she does not believe Adams set fire to her home in Yuba City, a city of about 65,000 about 40 miles north of Sacramento.

"Someone is trying to smear him and they're using my name to do it," she told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.

An affidavit filed in Sutter County, where Adams has been the district attorney for 31 years, said Adams lied to investigators when they first asked him about whether he had sex with Garibay, whom he met in 2010 when he was prosecuting a case in which she testified. In that case, another Garibay lover was convicted of manslaughter for killing a man after he walked in on the couple having sex.

Adams, who later admitted the affair, also might have tried to steer fire investigators toward one Garibay's other boyfriends, the affidavit said.

The woman told the newspaper in an interview this week that she had a brief "inappropriate, romantic relationship" with the district attorney, but said it was "ludicrous to assume" Adams was involved in the fire and said he was the least likely suspect.

Garibay was asked in the interview if she had been a prostitute, the newspaper reported.

"Yes, I have," she responded. "Some time ago, I have been a paid escort, but that's definitely in the past."

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Garibay have been unsuccessful.

It was Adams' behavior immediately after the July 21 fire that drew scrutiny from local law enforcement and fire officials. He showed up at the fire scene the next morning, which fire officials said he had never done before.

Later, he sent several emails to fire investigators referring to the incident as "arson," describing "pour patterns" found at the scene and referring to the fire starting in the bedroom — details no investigator remembered sharing with him. He also circumvented the normal process to seek financial victim assistance for Garibay, arousing suspicion in his own office.

Police found Adams' behavior unusual, "as he has never involved himself in an investigation in this manner," the affidavit said.

Adams, the former president of the California District Attorneys Association, also appeared to try to steer investigators to two other men with whom Garibay was involved: her boyfriend of 12 years and the father of her 14-month-old daughter, who was angry Garibay followed through with the pregnancy and had given her at least $40,000 not to reveal that the child was his; and another man who allegedly abused her the night before the fire, prompting her to call 911.

In text messages he sent to Garibay after the fire, Adams told her to make sure she told police about the latter lover "and their history of domestic violence," the affidavit said.

The district attorney's office has recused itself and turned over the investigation to the state attorney general's office, which declined to comment. Adams did not return a telephone message from The Associated Press, and the Sutter County district attorney's office had no official comment.

In an interview with the Appeal-Democrat last week, Adams denied lying to police and any involvement in the house fire.

"As far as my position in office, I never did anything illegal, unprofessional or unethical," Adams said. The newspaper said he declined to answer questions about his relationship with Garibay, acknowledging only that the two had a "friendship."

Adams told police he was home with his family on the night of the fire, the affidavit said.

Garibay's attorney, Roberto Marquez, also did not return a call from the AP seeking comment Thursday.

"Just because someone has a promiscuous kind of life doesn't make them any less of a victim," Garibay told the newspaper.