Burning Bed: Roller-Coaster Romance Ends in Flames


It was at a health club, in a high-end shopping mall known by some as the Rodeo Drive of Palo Alto, that Schipsi first met Zumot.

Schipsi's best friend, Roy Endemann, said Zumot swept her off her feet -- but he was far from the ideal boyfriend.

"He would put her on a pedestal, but then the next day he would knock, knock her off the pedestal, and throw the pedestal in the trash," Endemann said.

He said Zumot called her a bad real estate agent or would say she was getting fat. Jaime Schipsi also accused Zumot of criticizing her daughter's figure.

"My daughter weighed 105 pounds," she said, "And he said to her, you're not wearing a bikini. You're too fat."

Zumot's family maintains that Paul Zumot treated his girlfriend like a princess.

Whatever was going on in her relationship, the rest of Schipsi's life seemed to be spiraling downward: the real estate market had started crashing, she couldn't pay her property taxes and things were so bad, she even filled out an application to work at a Hooters restaurant. She was also stressed that her parents were divorcing.

Life on a Downward Spiral?

Jake Allen, who stayed close to Schipsi after their breakup, said he felt helpless as he saw the beautiful, smart woman he loved change dramatically before his eyes, surgically altering her appearance and falling into what appeared to be deep bouts of depression.

"She was a little insecure about a lot of things so she had some surgery done," Allen said. "You could see that that drive kind of got beaten down a little bit ...She wasn't really going out there and attacking the real estate world like she used to."

At some points in 2008, Allen said, it was hard to get Schipsi out of bed. At work, her boss, Drew Holderman, said he, too, saw a huge change. Schipsi even stopped coming to work for one month.

"The new Jennifer was, not only physically different, but, mentally, a different person. She was very unfocused," he said.

Despite Schipsi's troubles, the night of her boyfriend's 36th birthday party in October 2009 began as a happy night. Schipsi had invited more than a dozen of Zumot's closest friends to his favorite restaurant to celebrate.

After their meal, the couple rode in a friend's car to continue the celebration at Zumot's hookah lounge. But the revelry didn't last: a text message to Schipsi from a male friend seemed to provoke jealousy from Zumot.

The two began to argue and, when they arrived at a cafe, Schipsi refused to go inside, telling her friend through a text message that she was going home alone. It was the last time anyone other than Zumot would see her alive.

Four hours after the fire began, police began talking to Zumot. Police video shows Zumot apparently anguished while questions remained over whose body it was on that burning mattress. (CLICK HERE to watch the video.)

"It's not Jennifer, man. It's impossible," the video shows a teary Zumot telling police.

Inconsolable or not, Zumot's conversation with police soon turned into an interrogation, as police asked him about the night before. Zumot seemed quite willing to answer questions, volunteering that the couple had gotten into a fight.

Mounting a Defense

He said Schipsi later sent him angry text messages, demanding that he pay her money she said he owed her.

In her messages, some of them laced with expletives, Schipsi called Zumot a "scam artist liar" and told him to "vanish from my life."

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