A judge decided not to sentence Spencer Scarber Tuesday, even though he believes the son of a CHP assistant chief was voluntarily absent from court.
Scarber's defense was supposed to start the day his father reported him missing one month ago -- a disappearance investigators believe was staged. But Action News has uncovered some photographs that would've been key elements of the defense.
Spencer Scarber is now a ghost, haunting the woman he's convicted of raping. When he disappeared last month, the trail led detectives to Mexico, where a car belonging to his mother was photographed crossing the border a couple hours before his father reported him missing. Gail Scarber and one of her daughters crossed back on foot.
Fresno County sheriff's investigators served a warrant at the Scarber house a week later, but prosecutors say they're no closer to catching spencer.
"There's an ongoing investigation by the sheriff's department, but there's been no sightings of him and they have no knowledge of specifically where he's at," said deputy attorney general Leanne Le Mon.
Scarber faces a life sentence and his victim wrote a letter telling the judge it's a big concern to her as long as he's free. But the judge delayed sentencing until the convicted rapist is found.
Scarber's attorney says the decision protects Spencer's right to appeal and allows for a different interpretation of his disappearance.
"Until we actually have Spencer here and find out what really happened, there is still that possibility that this wasn't voluntary, as everyone is speculating," said Antonio Alvarez.
Alvarez wasn't able to present a defense because his key witness was Spencer Scarber. DNA evidence and a taped confession pinned the crime on Scarber. But his family has claimed neighbors beat him up and forced the confession. In the video, you can see some blood on his shirt in pictures sheriff's investigators took when Scarber gave his statement.
At the time, he admitted he didn't know the victim. But just before trial started, Scarber signed an affidavit saying he'd actually had consensual sex with the woman six months prior to the incident.
ABC-30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says the new story probably wouldn't have helped his defense.
"For him to now bring in the statement a year and a half after the incident -- which is totally contradictory to what he said before, does not bode well," Capozzi said. "I think he saw the writing on the wall and there was no way he could've won this case."
The CHP tells us Kyle Scarber -- Spencer's dad -- is still on leave while the investigation into his son's disappearance continues. We reached out to Scarber family members again Tuesday, but got no response.