"Where are the Quaids?"
It's been a familiar question for more than a year at the Santa Barbara courthouse where judges, prosecutors and even Randy and Evi Quaid's own attorney have worked overtime to try to get the couple to appear for two felony court cases.
Last year, the search centered on Texas, but in recent weeks the focus on the Quaids' whereabouts has shifted to Canada, where they are seeking asylum from a mysterious syndicate they've dubbed "Hollywood star-whackers."
In the latest case, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Donna Geck was the one asking about the actor and his wife's whereabouts Tuesday. They had been scheduled to appear for an arraignment on felony vandalism charges, but for the third time in two weeks, failed to appear.
The result was an arrest warrant issued for Evi Quaid, who also forfeited $500,000 bail. The judge agreed to hold off on issuing a warrant for Randy Quaid's arrest until Nov. 16 so that he could attend a Canadian immigration proceeding next week.
With a string of missed court appearances and bizarre behavior both in and out of the courthouse, that hearing may give the Quaids their last chance to address the vandalism case voluntarily. Their attorney, Robert Sanger, acknowledged Tuesday that there is talk of bounty hunters pursuing his clients.
Sanger told Geck that Evi Quaid didn't appear in court because she didn't want to leave her husband alone.
It wasn't a valid legal reason for Evi Quaid's absence, Sanger conceded, but he also said he was looking into whether the couple's stated fears may have some legitimacy.
The couple are accused of living in the guest house of a home they once owned. Sanger said he suspected forgery on the home's deed transferring ownership from the Quaids in early 1990s, but he needed more time to be sure.
"There may be a claim of right — as strange as that may seem — to the property in this case," Sanger said.
Strange circumstances have defined the Quaids since September 2009, when they were accused of defrauding an innkeeper of more than $10,000. The money was repaid, and the case was finally resolved in April, but not until after several missed court appearances, warrants and the couple ending up in handcuffs.
Their infrequent appearances have seemed more akin to the quirky characters Randy Quaid excelled at playing in films such as "National Lampoon's Vacation" and "Independence Day," than the roles that won him Oscar and Emmy nominations. He and his wife were once freed after convincing a West Texas sheriff to drive them to the bank so they could post bail. At a later hearing in Santa Barbara, Randy Quaid brought along his Golden Globe Award, which he earned for a TV movie role in the late 1980s.
The actor was cleared in the innkeeper case, while his wife pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was placed on three years probation. The couple was ostensibly free, with no more court dates and no formal supervision.
Then in September, the alarm at the Quaids' former home in Santa Barbara. Deputies were called and arrested the couple on suspicion of illegally squatting in the guest house.
The damage they allegedly caused scared the home's current owners, who sought and were granted temporary restraining orders against the actor and his wife.
The Quaids had disabled the home's security system, removed cameras, blocked the front door with heavy pots and dismantled a children's wooden play structure to erect barriers in the foliage, according to a declaration filed by homeowner Lannette Turicchi.
Evi Quaid showed up days after her arrest at Turicchi's home near Los Angeles and threatened her, according to the restraining order document.
Since mid-October, the Quaids have been in Canada, Sanger said Tuesday. They were arrested days after missing their arraignment on the vandalism case in a posh Vancouver shopping area.
They immediately sought refugee status, and through an attorney, said they were afraid of "Hollywood star-whackers" who they say may have contributed to the deaths of stars such as David Carradine and Heath Ledger. Carradine was found hanging in a Bangkok hotel room, and Ledger died of accidental drug overdose in New York City.
Sanger didn't reference the "star-whackers" Tuesday in court, nor did he answer reporter's questions after the hearing. He urged patience, both from Geck and prosecutor Anthony Harris.
There are no guarantees that Quaids will show up on Nov. 16, other than they risk losing more bail collateral and getting arrested again.
But if they do, there are two judges who would like to see them — the one who will handle their arraignment on the vandalism charges, and another considering whether to issue a lengthy restraining order keeping them away from the Turicchi family and their homes.