Capobianco Murder Trial: Details of Final Moments with Charli

July 5, 2016, 9:59 PM HST · Updated July 6, 1:57 PM
Nicole Schenfeld · 0 Comments
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Sgt. Wendell Loo demonstrating the demeanor of Capobianco leaning back during a police interview. (6.29.16) Photo by Wendy Osher.

Sgt. Wendell Loo demonstrating the demeanor of Capobianco leaning back during a police interview. (6.29.16) Photo by Wendy Osher.

The murder trial for Steven Capobianco resumed for a fifth day on Tuesday, July 5, with a continued recording from Friday in which police questioned Steven Capobianco. The recording, from a Feb. 28, 2014, interview detailed Capobianco’s day leading up to his last moments with Charli Scott before she disappeared.

Tuesday’s proceedings started off with a nearly two-hour recess. The defense argued that there was a piece of audio recording that was played for the jury on Friday, revealing that Capobianco had slept with one of Scott’s sisters, which caused problems in Scott’s family. That information was supposed to be redacted from the audio recording, but accidentally played. Prosecutors agreed with the defense. Judge Joseph Cardoza said it was human error and the trial resumed.

In the 15 minutes that the trial resumed before lunch, lead case investigator Sgt. Wendell Loo took to the witness stand again as the third recording continued to play from Friday’s recess.

The recording breaks down Capobianco’s day leading up to his last moments with Scott before she disappeared.

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Capobianco said he drove straight home after work on Saturday, Feb. 8, but didn’t remember specifically what he did. When asked by detectives about his girlfriend at the time, he said he was probably skyping with her on his cell phone in the late afternoon. He mentioned he left the house once to grab a soda from Hanzawa’s store in Haʻikū. After going back to his house, he said he was bored so he took his truck out to Hāna.

He said he spoke with Charli on the phone, or texted with her, but didn’t recall the time.

“It was after Hanzawa’s,” he stated in the interview.

He said he was trying to keep dialogue open with Scott because of the baby. The conversation with Charli lasted maybe an hour at the most, he said.

Capobianco said he drove his 1992 Toyota 4Runner toward Hāna because he said he has a really loud sound system in his truck and it’s the only place he can turn up the [music] really loud. He has 16 speakers in the car that he worked on himself, Capobianco told police. He said he is pretty skillful with electronics; at least with sound systems. He told police he even installed a sound system in Scott’s vehicle.

Capobianco said he didn’t talk to anyone about going to Hāna. He recalled stopping at Honomanū Bay to stretch his legs. When asked if anyone was there at the time, he said there wasn’t, but he couldn’t tell because it was dark outside so he couldn’t see anything. When asked if there was a moon that night he said he believes there was, so it wasn’t pitch black.

Capobianco told police that at around 8 p.m., he made it about three miles past Ke’anae and while driving uphill, his car stalled. He told police he tried to start it again with his key and tried to clutch in reverse but the car still wouldn’t run. He said it wouldn’t stay running so he backed it up on side of road and popped open his hood. He said he had no lights and no tools with him, so he started walking back to Ke‘anae and hitchhiked back to his house. He said he was going to call someone to help but had no reception.

According to Capobianco, a man with dreadlocks driving a Toyota Corolla picked him up. He described the man as similar to him, only the man had dark brown hair to his shoulders that was like dreads. He said he doesn’t recall the color of the Corolla but that the interior was old and falling apart on the inside. In the third interview, he told police he didn’t remember the man’s name. During the interview, Capobianco said he recalled laughing with the man about his car being stuck and hitchhiking in the dark in Ke’anae. He then said the man dropped him off about a half-mile from his home at “Five Corners.”

When asked what time Capobianco left his home to drive to Hāna, he couldn’t recall, but said it took him an hour and a half until his car stalled. The detective put the time around sunset, 6:30 p.m. When asked if he drives pretty fast, Capobianco said yes. He also mentioned he had no tools with him, “usually I have screwdrivers and stuff, but I just got my car back from the mechanic and never put anything back into my truck,” he said.

When detectives asked him again about leaving his car on the side of the road, Capobianco mentioned he left his truck on the side of road completely off road (later photo evidence would show a small turnout area, on the mauka side). He explained that he didn’t put hazard lights on because he wasn’t sure when he would get back to his car. Capobianco told police that when he got home he decided to deal with the car the next day. He mentioned that his truck breaks down a lot and that he was getting a little tired and embarrassed to have people drive him around.

When police said, “Leaving your truck on the side of the road in Hāna overnight is like leaving $100 on the sidewalk,” Capobianco said he figured nothing was going to happen to it because it looked like a “local boy” truck and no one would mess with it. Or someone would assume it was their friend’s (in the area) or that it was a hunter’s truck, Capobianco explained.

After lunch recess, Sgt. Loo took the witness stand again.

The recording continued with questioning for used on the following day, Sunday Feb. 9, after Capobianco’s car allegedly stalled near Ke‘anae. Capobianco said his friend Kyle picked him up and took him to work. However, he didn’t know much about Kyle.

“I don’t know where he works, I think he’s a student,” he said. “He lives Upcountry somewhere. I haven’t known him that long.”

When detectives asked how he contacted his friend, (because he didn’t have Kyle’s phone number), he said he contacted him through Facebook.

When Kyle showed up, Capobianco walked down the road to meet him. Kyle drove him to work at Mana, according to Capobianco’s account. He said he didn’t talk to Kyle about his truck because he said he had already planned on having Charli help him with the truck because he wanted to talk to her.

Capobianco said he texted Charli around 10 a.m. Sunday saying he (expletive) up his truck somehow and would like her help to go get it.

“She replied pretty fast—I think,” he said. “I checked my phone later that day, and she had agreed and we made a plan to go get it [the car].”

Capobianco said he originally planned to tow his car back, and that he had some simple tools in a little tool box.

Capobianco said, “I think I just hitched a ride home [after work].”

He stated both he and Scott had a lot going on that afternoon and that he was trying to coordinate with Charli. He told police he had something to do in Pā‘ia and said it was Scott’s sister’s birthday “or something,” so she was hanging out with her sister.

Capobianco said Scott arrived near his home at around 8:30 p.m. and he walked down the street to meet her. According to Capobianco’s account, he brought with him a chain to tow his car, a little tool set and his phone.

He told detectives that no one knew he was going to Hāna. He said Scott was driving and her dog was in the back seat of her car. He said the only conversation he can recall on the way to his car was about names for the baby.

“She said it was going to have her last name,” he said. “Joshua, her uncle, wanted the name to be named after him. I didn’t really care about any of that, I wanted it to be Alexander if it was a boy. I didn’t give it much thought if it was going to be a girl.”

He mentioned the two never argued while driving towards his car.

He guessed it took about 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-quarter from the bottom of Kaupakalua to get to his car near Ke’anae. When asked if she drives fast like Capobianco does, he said “no, she drives very carefully.”

He recalled Scott wearing something black, “some form of a black dress with very thin straps; not spaghetti strap,” and that she could have been wearing a jacket on top of that. When asked again, he said, “I think it was just the dress or a skirt of some kind.” He mentioned he wasn’t really staring at her and was keeping his eyes on the road.

Detectives asked about physical appearances on Scott. He mentioned a few tattoos she had, but said he didn’t notice if she was wearing any jewelry that night. He couldn’t recall if Scott had her ears pierced, but mentioned her tongue was pierced and she had a barbell tongue ring.

Capobianco told police that when the two arrived at his truck he had her pull in front of his truck so her lights could shine on his hood. He said he noticed the battery wasn’t mounted properly. He told police that once he fixed the battery, he thanked Scott for driving him, jumped into his car and pulled in front of her. He said he started driving back to Haʻikū and asked her to follow in case the car stalled again.

Detectives mentioned his electrical experience with cars and asked why he didn’t use the flashlight on his phone the night before to fix his car. He replied that he didn’t have tools to work on it.

Capobianco told police that while fixing his vehicle he told Scott to stay in her car while he worked on his.

“She offered to help and I told her to stay in the car because she’s pregnant,” he said.

Detectives asked if Capobianco used a flashlight to help see while fixing his car, but he said that he just used the headlights from Scott’s car to shine on his hood.

When detectives asked why he didn’t bring a flashlight to fix his car at night, he said, “I didn’t think of everything, I guess. When I first went out there, I thought I was towing the truck back.”

As Capobianco led the way back towards Haʻikū, he stated that because he drives faster than Scott, that when he didn’t see her headlights, he would slow down and wait until he saw her headlights appear. When they approached the Twin Falls area, he said he didn’t see her headlights, then noticed her headlights shortly after and then proceeded to “bail because we had cell service there,” he said. He told police he then proceeded down Kaupakalua Road.

He said he got home and maybe skyped his current girlfriend, and then crashed and went to work at the regular time the next day. He stated that the truck was kind of running normal and that a few days later, the same thing happened to his truck that happened that night.

Capobianco sent Scott a text message the next morning thanking her for her help, but didn’t get a text back. He said he didn’t think anything of it because, “It’s not unusual for her not to respond back to me right away.” He mentioned she could have been in front of her family at the time, too, because “she didn’t like to talk to me while in front of her family.”

Detectives also talked about Scott’s family wondering about her whereabouts. Capobianco said he didn’t know anything until the cops showed up at his house at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. When asked if he didn’t hear anything from Scott’s family until after the cops showed up, he said he didn’t remember.

The detective mentioned a lot of tourists go to Hāna and record their Road to Hāna experience. The detective mentioned they had reached out to tour companies, as well, saying, “and guess what that’s depicting about the truck so far.”

When Capobianco said he wasn’t sure, the detective asked, “You’re not sure? You’re sure you’re not sure?”

Capobianco asked what they were getting at. The detectives asked, “The truck was actually there?”

“Yeah,” said Capobianco.

“Okay, so the video that they’re going to be analyzing is going to show the truck there on the side of the road?” the detective asked.

“It should,” Capobianco replied.

“It should?” detectives asked again.

“Yes,” said Capobianco.

“Are you certain about that?” the detectives asked.

“Well I’m not now, because of the way you’re asking me about it, but my truck was out there,” Capobianco said.

The detectives also brought up the first time he went to Nua‘ailua or Parquat’s after a conversation he had with his boss. During the interview, Capobianco stated the first time he went to the area was Feb. 1, 2014. He said his boss had told him about the road and checked it out.

Detectives asked Capobianco if he helped in the search of Scott.

“I did what I could, yeah,” he said. He mentioned he “helped the family the first day, and then people started making threats against me and people said it was me that did it and I started to not feel safe in public.”

That Tuesday, Scott’s sister, Brooke, went to Mana Foods and asked Capobianco if he had seen Charli. He told her he would call her if anything came up. She came back to the store later and asked him to show her what happened.

Capobianco went with Brooke towards Hāna and they approached the Nua‘ailua area.

“Is it true you took Brooke down Hāna Highway and got to Nua’ailua and said that you had checked that area already?” detectives asked him.

He replied “yes.”

Detectives revised the question in the recording. “Did you give Brooke the sense that you checked that area?” Capobianco said, “yes,” but added, “I told them we can get out of the truck and we can go check it, but we didn’t.”

Prosecuting Attorney Rivera stood after the recording was completed and asked Sgt. Loo about details involving recovering of the jawbone in the Nua‘ailua area.

Sgt. Loo replied, saying once they were in an area of cell reception, they contacted the Coroner and she requested them to take pictures of the jawbone so she could confirm if it was human or animal. Sgt. Loo said in that situation, they reach out to the family so they could obtain dental records for a comparison.

On Feb. 19, 2014, Sgt. Loo met with the coroner and another doctor to compare X-rays and to confirm the identity.

On Feb. 14, photos were taken of Scott’s vehicle which was found torched in the area of Pe‘ahi. He noted that the doors and the front grill were missing from the vehicle.

Capobianco’s cousin, Danielle, was asked to come to the Wailuku police station by Sgt. Loo to talk about the case. On Feb. 27, Loo said she arrived in Capobianco’s vehicle and that he was unexpectedly with her. He said he didn’t request Capobianco to be there.

After interviewing with her, Loo spoke with Capobianco to see if he was willing to ride with them and show where his vehicle exactly stalled out in the Ke’anae area. Capobianco agreed.

Detective Nelson Hamilton also rode with Loo and Capobianco to the area where his car was stalled.

“I had video camera like GoPro set up on dashboard and an interior camera set up inside of my vehicle,” Loo stated. “The cameras were there to “show that we didn’t threaten Mr. Capobianco and for him to say this is the area my car stalled out.”

Capobianco pointed out the Twin Falls area where he last saw Scott’s vehicle. They also stopped at the Wailua Wayside Park, where Capobianco said he was picked up by the driver of the Toyota Corolla.

When asked by Rivera about the third interview that took place on the Feb. 28 with Capobianco, Loo described Capobianco’s demeanor as “cold, cooperative but standoffish. [He] was willing to talk but I cannot really describe it, sir. It’s basically, he would sit here kind of like he doesn’t want to be there but he has to be there—don’t know how to express it,” Loo said.

The court concluded for the day. Scott’s mother is expected to take the stand tomorrow.

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