Mother: We are not the same people we were before that night

The family of Carly ‘Charli’ Scott struggles, one year later, with the aftermath of the Capobianco conviction

Kimberlyn Scott, mother of murder victim Carly “Charli” Scott, sits in her friend’s Kihei home Wednesday afternoon. “It’s kind of like Steven killed all of us. Who we were when Charli was alive — all those people are dead. We’re totally different people right now,” said Scott. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

It’s been one year since the biggest criminal trial in Maui County’s history ended, and while the public has largely moved on from the case, those directly involved still appear to be reeling from its aftermath.

A year ago last Thursday, a jury found Steven Capobianco guilty of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and setting her vehicle on fire in East Maui. The victim, Carly “Charli” Scott of Makawao, was five months pregnant with Capobianco’s son when she was killed nearly four years ago.

“I don’t think any one of us are the same person we were that night,” Scott’s mother, Kimberlyn Scott, said Wednesday at a friend’s Kihei home. “It’s kind of like Steven killed all of us. Who we were when Charli was alive — all those people are dead. We’re totally different people right now.”

The mother has found no rest since last year’s conviction and Capobianco’s sentencing. In March, he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, plus 10 years. Capobianco has yet to appear before the Hawaii Paroling Authority, which determines his minimum terms in prison, and it remains unclear when that will happen.

“Everyone wants to plan for this, and it just puts everything on hold,” Scott said.

Carly ‘Charli’ Scott

The parole hearing is supposed to occur within six months of the verdict, but Capobianco has waived the deadline and “intends to exhaust all appellate remedies,” his attorneys have said. Defense attorneys Jon Apo and Matthew Nardi, who represented Capobianco during the trial, have been reappointed for the parole hearing, but they did not have a date set Wednesday.

Apo said he “anticipates being ready” for the hearing and plans to file an appeal regardless of whether his client finds an appellate attorney. He said the process of finding another attorney has been difficult for the courts and has stretched to Oahu because of its “huge commitment.”

The only comment Apo offered in reflection on the case was: “It was exhausting.”

“It’s a full-time job for whoever wants to take this case,” he said, noting its vast amount of testimony and transcripts. “My understanding is that there’s not an attorney on the island that wants to touch the case.”

Jurors have yet to talk about the trial after 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza advised them not to discuss the case with anyone, except for fellow jurors or the court. A juror, who declined to be identified, said Tuesday that jurors were advised not to talk until the appeal process has ended, and that someone from the court would let them know when they could talk.

Kimberlyn Scott looks at a shelf of photos, personal items and other mementos of her murdered daughter, Carly “Charli” Scott, on Wednesday morning at her friend’s house in Kihei. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

With her daughter’s case unfinished, Scott has sought closure in other areas, such as retrieving her daughter’s remains. The remains were used in the trial as circumstantial evidence. Items include fingernails or fingertips, teeth, hair, a lower jawbone and “another part no one is sure what it is, but it’s Charli,” Scott said.

“It’s literally all that’s left,” the mother said. “I know she’s not attached to those things anymore, and I hear it from so many people, but I just want my child to have something of a normal burial.

“If Charli had been a whole body, she would’ve been released to us a long time ago. Within a couple a months I believe, if not sooner.”

Scott had a short meeting with Prosecuting Attorney John D. Kim, who is looking into returning the remains to the family, First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said Saturday. Rivera did not know when the remains would be returned to the family, but it could be complicated during the appeal process that could take years.

The remains would be preserved at a secure forensic facility to avoid any biological damage, he said. He believed they should be given to the family as soon as possible.

Scott holds the ultrasound taken of her daughter’s unborn child less than a month before she was killed. Carly Scott was five months pregnant with Steven Capobianco’s son. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

“We’re going to take a look, and there’s no question we want to return those very personal items as soon as we can,” he said. “But if there’s a retrial or anything to question the verdict, that could cause a delay.”

In many ways, it seems impossible for Scott to move on from her daughter’s death with the family seeing reminders of her every day. The mother said she’s left paralyzed when viewing certain movies or even seeing pregnant women on the street or people walking with children.

“All of us are still trying to figure out how to live with this,” she said. “It’s literally trying to figure out how to get through each day. I know that sounds stereotypical, but it’s really how every single day is.”

Carly Scott’s father, Robert, admitted that he “can’t really say there’s any real closure” because of the ongoing legal process. The father, who lives in Seattle, said the emotional and physical toll of the murder trial has caused him to be less productive at work and filled with anxiety.

“I definitely am suffering,” he said. “I struggle with the same kind of work I used to do, and I have to work on trying to calm myself down. It’s very hard to focus for more than an hour at a time on any task.”

Future plans and big decisions also have fallen to the wayside in the aftermath of the trial, Robert Scott said. The family has not been “feeling highly motivated” to take trips or enjoy life, and this holiday season “snuck up on us,” he said.

“In the early days of all of this, we had to give ourselves permission to smile or laugh,” he said. “I think in 2018 we’re looking at a year to break out and give ourselves permission to enjoy life a little more.”

Kimberlyn Scott has poured her time into assisting victims of domestic violence and families with missing loved ones. She recently bought an old tour bus, which she plans to renovate with a bed, storage, solar panels and running water.

The bus would serve as a mobile command center for missing person searches, which includes searching for remains of her daughter. She also is working with the Maui Police Department on its missing person protocol and website, which had not been updated in years.

“Every time I go out it’s always in my mind that if one spot is clear,” she said. “It’s clear for every missing person and that’s the goal.”

She also has sought help from the Maui County Council by supporting a resolution that would hold prosecutors liable in criminal cases, giving victims a way to enforce their basic rights. The council unanimously backed the resolution earlier this month.

The mother was grateful for the work of the prosecution, but she did not appreciate being left out of the courtroom during the trial and complained about not getting information on the case in a timely manner. She has sought broad change to Hawaii’s justice department and has lobbied state legislators over the past year for more victims’ rights.

“I really think it’s a great way for victims to fight back against the way our system is set up,” she said of the county resolution.

Rivera said the prosecutor’s office is opposed to the resolution because it would give any victim “not satisfied” a door to a civil lawsuit. He did not believe any witness division or prosecutor’s office in the state would support suing the “very people who are trying to help.”

“I don’t think it’s right because there’s so many people who are willing to sacrifice to do what they can to help and to have them subject to or put in a position to face a civil lawsuit — we don’t support that,” he said.

Reflecting on an earlier ‘no body’ murder case

Capobianco’s trial is not Maui County’s first “no body” case. About 40 years ago, the county was rocked after a student from the University of California, Los Angeles, was killed while working on the island.

On Aug. 26, 1977, Ann Craddock, a waitress in Kaanapali, told a friend that she was meeting her old boyfriend, Randall Krause, later that night, and that he was finally going to pay back a $400 loan, according to stories published by The Maui News at the time. Craddock left after her shift and was never seen again.

A grand jury indicted Krause and his friend, Alan Arnold, on murder charges without Craddock’s body. Searchers flew in helicopters and used infrared equipment to scour the Lahaina coastline without finding Craddock. A cellmate of Krause, however, later drew a crude map of where Krause told him he had buried Craddock’s body.

The body was recovered the following year, buried 20 miles away in a shallow grave at Maalaea. Krause was later convicted of murder and Arnold of manslaughter. Both since have been paroled.

Retired Judge Boyd Mossman, who served as the prosecutor on the case, recalled his office being “reluctant” to take the Craddock case because the victim’s body was missing. His team brought in J. Miller Leavy, a retired Los Angeles County prosecutor known for his ability to get convictions without bodies and capturing the first murder conviction in the U.S. based entirely on circumstantial evidence.

“We got in touch with him to get some information on how he went about putting evidence together, and he volunteered to prosecute it with us,” Mossman said. “He was the lead, and I sat with him to make sure everything was OK.”

Mossman said Craddock’s case took less than half the time than Scott’s and was aided by finding the body later. He gave credit to the prosecution in the Scott case for doing an “excellent job putting all the evidence together.”

“It’s way, way, way more difficult,” he said. “That’s why I give them credit. In order to put that case together, they had to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i.’ “

The Capobianco trial is believed to be the longest in the county’s history and possibly in the state. Jurors heard 59 days of testimony from 76 witnesses and examined about 450 pieces of evidence.

The trial also was live-streamed over the internet and covered extensively by local and national media.

Mossman said he believed that the case proved to the world that “a case of this magnitude and complexity can be held in our local courts.” He said the prosecutors, and even defense attorneys, should be proud of their work.

“I think it demonstrated that the court personnel, clerks, judges, sheriffs and others are able and can handle just about anything that is before them,” he said. “There is no need to go further than our circuit to get justice.”

Rivera, who has been a prosecutor since 1990, said he worked seven days a week for 10 to 16 hours a day on the trial. He said police spent thousands of hours in the field and in his office working on the case.

“There’s no question this ranks as the most difficult, the most high-profile and also one of the more gruesome cases because it involved a pregnant mother and her unborn child,” he said.

Rivera expressed gratitude to his support staff, investigators and attorneys who assisted throughout the trial. He said many “put their lives on hold for over a year” to prepare and support the case.

Rivera said he hopes the case’s legacy will be to reignite support behind protections for pregnant women, such as Scott. They are among the most vulnerable to assault and lethal violence in the county, he said, adding that he intends to meet with women’s groups and others to gain protection through state legislation.

“Right now, there’s no laws protecting them,” he said. “We do have laws protecting people under 6, but the one piece we’re missing are laws protecting women who are pregnant. That’s something we’re really trying to push.”

Kimberlyn Scott said she hopes her daughter’s death inspires change for the many other victims that have not received as much media exposure. She said she still receives messages from mothers looking for help for their daughters on Maui and across the country.

“Even in death, I feel obligated to give voice to others,” Scott said. “That’s what we’re going to be working on in the beginning of the year.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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