The defense begins in Capobianco trial

Murder defendant Steven Capobianco confers with attorneys Jon Apo (right) and Matthew Nardi on Wednesday afternoon during his trial in 2nd Circuit Court. Capobianco, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend Carly “Charli” Scott. The defense began presenting its witnesses Wednesday after the prosecution rested its case Nov. 1. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — The defense in the Steven Capobianco murder trial began its case Wednesday by focusing on an alleged masking tape connection between the defendant’s former workplace and the scene where some of victim Carly “Charli” Scott’s clothes and belongings were found in East Maui.

Paia resident John Palicki was the first witness for the defense after the prosecution rested its case Nov. 1. The prosecution  put on 71 witnesses over 55 days in the 2nd Circuit Court trial before Judge Joseph Cardoza.

The defendant’s former co-worker at Mana Foods testified that he does not recall ever seeing rolls of masking tape of the type that was recovered in the investigation. He was shown a photo of the masking tape rolls, which was part of the prosecution’s evidence.

Palicki said last month while testifying as a prosecution witness that masking tape was used “every day” in the bakery where both he and Capobianco had worked. When shown a photo of two rolls of masking tape recovered in the investigation, Palicki had said that the rolls looked like the “general masking tape” used in the bakery and that the store does not keep track of the tape.

Searchers at “Paraquats” beach in East Maui on Feb. 13, 2014, three days after Scott was reported missing, found her black skirt, blue polka-dotted tank top and a green blanket, along with a pair of black jeans, a gray hoodie sweatshirt — and two rolls of masking tape.

Bob Olson, a driver at Mana Foods who also purchases supplies for the business, took the stand as a defense witness in the Steven Capobianco murder trial Wednesday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Under cross-examination, First Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera asked if Palicki was aware of the type of tape that was used in the bakery back in 2014. “The brand is inconsequential. It’s just a tool,” Palicki answered.

“They just float around,” he said of the tape rolls.

Capobianco, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend Scott and the second-degree arson of her vehicle.

He is the last person known to have seen Scott alive, telling police she drove him from Haiku to about 3 miles past Keanae the night of Feb. 9, 2014, to retrieve his truck, which he said had stalled there the night before. After fixing a loose battery cable on the truck, Capobianco said he was driving back to Haiku, with Scott following, when he lost sight of her headlights in the Twin Falls area.

At the time, the 27-year-old Scott was in the fifth month of her pregnancy with a son fathered by Capobianco.

The defense’s second witness, Mana Foods employee Bob Olson, indicated that the masking tape recovered appeared to be the 1.41-inch-size tape. He testified that he purchases items for the business when they are out of stock, including masking tape.

Olson had a 1.41-inch tape roll at the witness stand that he said he purchased from Home Depot and brought to court from Mana Foods.

When asked to compare the tape he had on the witness stand with the photo of the masking tape recovered, Olson said: “it appears to compare one with another.” He also noted that the tape in the photo lacked the markings identifying it as the 1.41-inch size.

Rivera asked Olson under cross-examination if he could testify that the tape recovered in the investigation is never used at Mana Foods. “I cannot,” Olson said.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. today.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

* Capobianco trial. John Palicki was the second witness called by the defense Wednesday in the 2nd Circuit Court murder trial of Steven Capobianco. Bob Olson was the defense’s third witness. A story on Page A1 that continued on Page A2 on Thursday gave the wrong sequence for the witnesses.

The Maui News apologizes for the error.

* The Maui News wants to promptly correct errors in fact or make clarifications on information appearing in the newspaper. To report an error or clarification, please call 242-6343 or send email to citydesk@mauinews.com.

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