May “Maya” Millete. Photo via @HelpFindMay Facebook
A Chula Vista man accused of murdering his wife planted a cell phone in his wife’s vehicle in order to track her whereabouts about six months before she disappeared, his sister-in-law testified Wednesday.
Genesis Nicolas-Tabalanza said that in mid-2020, her brother-in-law Larry Millete admitted in text messages to putting his daughter’s phone in his wife’s vehicle. His wife, May “Maya” Millete, found the phone and was so upset that she threatened to leave the marriage, Nicolas-Tabalanza testified Wednesday.
Larry Millete, 41, is charged with murdering his wife, who has not been seen or heard from since Jan. 7, 2021. In a declaration in a separate court case, Millete stated that he believed his wife left their home voluntarily.
As other members of May’s family have testified during Millete’s preliminary hearing, Larry began reaching out to them more frequently than ever before in 2020 for help regarding his deteriorating marriage. Several witnesses have also testified that May Millete described Larry’s behavior as controlling in the year leading up to her disappearance.
Nicolas-Tabalanza said Larry began calling and texting her frequently for advice on the marriage and at some point, Larry said he was becoming “desperate.”
He told Nicolas-Tabalanza that if May didn’t stay with him, he would threaten May’s career by exposing an alleged affair she was having with a co-worker, according to text messages revealed in court.
May’s older brother, Jaypie Tabalanza, also testified Wednesday that in 2020, Larry began calling him “almost every day” regarding the marriage and the supposed affair.
Jaypie testified that on several occasions, Larry talked about “getting rid of” the man he believed May was having an affair with. He testified that Larry asked him if he knew someone who could get rid of the man, saying he could offer $20,000 for the job.
Wednesday’s hearing also included testimony from Derek Sopp, who worked with May at the Navy’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center — known as SWRMC — in San Diego.
Sopp said in early 2020, Larry heard about a woman who accused May of having an affair with a subordinate employee.
Sopp said it appeared to be a “misunderstanding” that he believed was subsequently cleared up.
However, he testified that afterward, Larry began emailing him with requests to separate May and another male employee. In one such email, Larry wrote that he believed moving the other employee to a different division “would help (May) reset herself, and our relationship as well.”
In another email, Larry alleged the male employee was inventing excuses to work closely with May and that “She has gotten a little too personal with him.”
May later left SWRMC to work at the Naval Information Warfare Center — or NIWC — in Point Loma and Sopp testified that he believed May changed jobs in order to avoid the embarrassment of the affair accusations that developed at SWRMC.
Sopp also testified that on another occasion, May confided in him about potentially separating from her husband due to his controlling behavior.
She told Sopp that Larry “insisted on her always having her phone location turned on so he could track where she was” and that he restricted her access to her finances. He also wanted her social media passwords in order to monitor her conversations with others, she told Sopp.
One day before May disappeared, she told Sopp that she had hired a divorce attorney.
Larry found out and “threatened to ruin her professionally,” she told Sopp.
During a New Year’s 2021 family trip to Glamis, May told a group of family members that she was planning to file for divorce soon and “If anything happens to me, it will be Larry,” Nicolas-Tabalanza testified.
About a week later, May disappeared.
On Jan. 9, Nicolas-Tabalanza and her husband traveled to the Millete home to look for her. She testified that Larry was unusually calm amid his wife’s disappearance.
“He usually panics when he doesn’t know where May is, but this time he was just calm. Just quiet,” Nicolas-Tabalanza testified.
Larry told her and other relatives that May was likely out hiking, according to testimony.
May’s younger brother, Jay-R Tabalanza, and her father, Pablito Tabalanza, separately testified that they went to the house to look for May and were told she was in an upstairs bedroom. Pablito Tabalanza said Larry eventually let him into the room and May was not inside.
Nicolas-Tabalanza and May’s sister, Maricris Drouaillet, testified that after May disappeared, Larry did not take part in any of the family’s search efforts or spread the word regarding her disappearance.
Larry was arrested in October of 2021 on suspicion of killing May and has remained jailed without bail since then. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, a judge will rule whether there is enough evidence for Larry Millete to stand trial for murder.
Updated at 6:00 p.m. Jan. 18, 2023
–City News Service