A witness testified that he started a false rumor about the kidnapping of 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger two months before the boy’s October 2008 disappearance.

Shayne Skougardlived with the Puffinburgers at the time.  He told jurors he had vowed to do whatever was necessary to protect the family after the boy’s grandfather stole millions of dollars from a Mexican drug-trafficking organization. The witness said he started the rumor after meeting with Jose “Miguel” Lopez-Buelna.

Skougard said Lopez-Buelna told him, “The big boss man is getting very angry. We need to come up with a plan to say Cole is gone, so nobody has to get hurt.”

Prosecutors allege Lopez-Buelna ran the drug organization’s operations from Las Vegas. He and Luis Vega-Rubio face kidnapping and drug charges in connection with Cole’s disappearance. The boy was taken from his Las Vegas home on Oct. 15, 2008, and was safely returned three days later.

In a federal trial, prosecutors have alleged Cole was abducted at gunpoint as revenge after his grandfather, Clemens Tinnemeyer, ran off with $4.5 million in drug money. But defense lawyers have accused the boy’s mother and grandmother of staging the kidnapping, which attracted national attention, after the earlier ruse failed to lure Tinnemeyer out of hiding.

Skougard testified that he had known Cole’s mother Julie Puffinburger since the third grade. He said he began living with the woman, her fiance and Cole in August 2007.

The truck driver witness said Tinnemeyer told him he smuggled cocaine in a motor home that he drove throughout the country. Tinnemeyer disappeared in June 2008.

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro is presiding over the trial, which is scheduled to resume Monday.


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