Prosecutor: Capobianco only person capable of killing Scott
Case outlined in final arguments to jury
WAILUKU — Even before police found a missing pregnant woman’s burned car and pieces of her jawbone, her ex-boyfriend Steven Capobianco’s words and actions showed he already knew she had been killed, a deputy prosecutor said Tuesday.
“There’s only one person who’s capable of doing this,” First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said, urging jurors to find Capobianco guilty of murdering Carly “Charli” Scott.
“There was no reason for him to have stabbed her in the womb in excess of 20 times,” Rivera said, showing a photo of Scott’s black skirt with the stab marks. “He hated Charli and he hated what the baby stood for. If Charli had the baby, the defendant would have been linked to Charli permanently. That would have ruined his plans.”
As closing arguments began Tuesday in Capobianco’s 2nd Circuit Court murder trial, Rivera summarized the prosecution’s case that included 74 witnesses and 450 pieces of evidence over about five months. Following the screening of jurors that began May 23, testimony in the trial started June 27.
Capobianco, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder of Scott and the second-degree arson of her vehicle.
When she was last seen the night of Feb. 9, 2014, Scott was in the fifth month of her pregnancy with a son fathered by Capobianco.
The 27-year-old Makawao resident “was at a very happy point in her life,” Rivera said.
“She was going to be a mother for the very first time,” he said.
In order to believe that Capobianco had nothing to do with Scott’s murder, as he told police, “you’re going to have to buy his first story” to police, including his claim that he hitchhiked back to Haiku after his lifted Toyota 4Runner broke down 3.2 miles past Keanae the night of Feb. 8, 2014, Rivera said.
“You’re going to have to believe he left his most prized possession on the side of the road unattended with its custom sound system,” Rivera said.
He said jurors also would have to believe Capobianco’s explanation that his 4Runner broke down when the battery cable got loose while he was driving — which his mechanic Ed Feiteira testified wouldn’t cause the engine to stall.
Capobianco didn’t tell anyone his truck had broken down in Keanae until after Scott was reported missing, Rivera said. But he said Capobianco did tell Scott.
“That was the only way he could lure Charli Scott to the Nuaailua area, acting like his car broke down,” Rivera said. “He had to get her out there. And once he got her out there, he had the opportunity to kill her.”
Two weeks earlier, Capobianco had asked Ginseng Mileur, a co-worker in the Mana Foods bakery in Paia, “what would be the best way to get away with murder,” Rivera said.
“The timing of that question is so important,” Rivera said.
He said that two months after Scott was murdered, Capobianco was angry after seeing bruises on his cousin’s friend from being abused by her boyfriend and told co-worker John Palicki, “I had to keep myself from killing someone again.”
“That can mean only one thing to John Palicki and to the rest of us,” Rivera said. “It means he confessed at that point to killing Charli Scott.”
Although Capobianco told police he only learned Scott was pregnant in January 2014, her half sister Fiona Wais testified that she texted Capobianco after Scott revealed her pregnancy to family members in December 2013. He responded that “she was supposed to have taken care of it,” Rivera said.
Capobianco also called Wais and sounded “panicky and short of breath.”
Planned Parenthood clinic manager Linda Puppolo testified Capobianco was with Scott at an appointment in October.
“Why would the defendant lie about something so simple to answer?” Rivera said. “He lied because he did not want the police to know that he had a plan. He did not want police to focus on him. His plan was Charli was supposed to get an abortion.
“He did not want police to know that when Charli double-crossed him or betrayed him, he gets so angry.
“Once that anger turned into rage, once he feels betrayed and once he feels that the plan he had is no longer his plan, at that point the defendant had the motive to commit murder.”
Rivera said it wasn’t enough for Capobianco to stab Scott in the chest, leaving deep cuts in her bra. “The defendant had to attack and destroy the one thing that Charli loved most — and that was her baby,” Rivera said.
During Capobianco’s first interview with police the morning of Feb. 12, 2014, Capobianco didn’t protest but agreed when Detective Wendell Loo said, “You’re the last person to see her alive,” Rivera said.
He said Capobianco spoke of Scott in the past tense, telling Hawaii News Now reporter Mileka Lincoln, “I knew Charli because she was my ex-girlfriend.”
Capobianco joked around and didn’t seem concerned when he joined friends gathered in Nahiku to search for Scott three days after she was last seen, witnesses said.
“He was the only one, at that time, that knew Charli was never coming back,” Rivera said. “He was the only one that knew where Charli was, lying in the Nuaailua area wrapped in a blanket.”
Before searchers found Scott’s black skirt, blue polka-dotted tank top, maggot-infested green blanket and other evidence in an area of thick brush at Nuaailua Bay in the late afternoon of Feb. 13, 2014, Capobianco had told her sisters and others that he had already searched that area, which is down a dirt road off Hana Highway.
Police officers who returned to the area the next day found Scott’s bra, two pieces of her lower jawbone, clumps of red hair and “a lot of maggots,” Rivera said.
He said officers returned the next day, finding “more pieces of Charli,” including five fingernails of her right hand, more of her hair, a bone fragment and a body piercing, Rivera said.
He said the body pieces, including skin fragments were “left in a trail,” that forensic anthropologist Rebecca Taylor testified was consistent with a body being moved and bumping into tree stumps and branches.
Taylor and forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Harle testified marks on the jawbone were consistent with being from a serrated knife.
Scott’s blood was found on a pair of size 32 blue jeans with a 30-inch inseam, which appeared to have been tossed over a guardrail on the edge of a cliff at Mile Marker 9.5 on Hana Highway, Rivera said.
“We need to listen to the legitimate opinions of the legitimate forensic experts in trying to piece together the truth, in trying to expose the countless lies the defendant has told police, the media, Charli’s family, their mutual friends,” Rivera said.
He said cellphone analysis by FBI Special Agent Michael Easter showed Capobianco didn’t leave the Haiku area where he was living the night he claimed his truck broke down in Keanae.
But his cellphone activity indicated he was in the area that includes Nuaailua Bay from 9:49 to 11:23 p.m. the night Scott was last seen and returned to the area from 5:16 to 5:49 p.m. the next day, Feb. 10, 2014, Rivera said.
He said Capobianco was again using his phone in the Nuaailua area from 5:47 to 6:35 p.m. Feb. 11, 2014. “He was there before any large-scale search had ever begun, and he was there before Charli’s remains and her clothing were ever discovered,” Rivera said.
He said the timing coincided with times that entomologist Lee Goff determined fly egg-laying activity ceased, which could have happened if Scott have been wrapped in her blanket. Capobianco also could have been there when a second egg-laying activity began as flies found a food source in the blanket, Rivera said.
Scott’s 1997 Toyota 4Runner was found the evening of Feb. 12, 2014, at the “Jaws” surf spot in Peahi. The vehicle was burned, with fires set in the front passenger seat and rear cargo area, “thus destroying any evidence that could have linked the defendant to Charli Scott’s murder,” Rivera said.
“The person that had the motive to kill Charli is sitting right there,” Rivera said, pointing to Capobianco. “The person that had the opportunity to murder Charli Scott is sitting right there.
“The person that had the intent to destroy her child and to erase her memory by defacing her jawbone is sitting right there.”
Judge Joseph Cardoza is presiding over the trial, which was scheduled to resume today with closing arguments by the defense.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.