Capobianco Murder Trial Day 9: Charli Scott’s Sister Testifies
The murder trial for Steven Capobianco entered a ninth day on Tuesday, with the defense wrapping up its cross examination of lead detective Wendell Loo, and the prosecution calling Charli Scott’s sister to the stand.
Scott’s younger half-sister, Fiona Elyse McKenna Wais took the stand and answered questions about Capobianco’s relationship with Scott, saying they “behaved more along the lines of roommates” than boyfriend and girlfriend. When asked if there were any words of affection the defendant used in relation to Charli Scott, Wais responded with a one-word answer, “None.”
Wais, who was in high school at the time, testified that couple did not display “behaviors like kissing in front of us or showing any signs of affection,” during the period of inquiry between 2010 and 2012.
When asked if she was aware of how Scott felt about the defendant, she said her sister was “motherly” and “loving” toward Capobianco. She “liked to cook, clean, make sure the house was kept up. She obviously cared,” said Wais.
Prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera then directed questioning to the end of December 2013, asking Wais, “What, if any, family meeting was called during the end of that month?” Wais responded saying Scott wanted to have an early Christmas. According to Wais, Scott called the meeting at Wais’ house at Rice Camp in Haʻikū, and other family members and friends were in attendance.
Before getting into further details of what transpired, the prosecution ended questioning for the day, with the trial set to resume on Wednesday morning, July 13, 2016.
*Below: file interview with Charli Scott’s half-sister, Fiona Wais on Feb. 15, 2014.
Earlier on Tuesday, the defense concluded questioning of lead investigator Wendell Loo, shortly after the court’s lunch break.
During redirect, prosecuting attorney Rivera asked Sgt. Loo for clarification on the condition of Scott’s dog, Nala, that was found in Nāhiku, and his accuracy in testifying earlier that the dog was found in “perfect condition.”
Sgt. Loo responded saying, “When I saw the picture of the dog it looked like it was in good health. It depends on your view of ‘perfect.’ Maybe ‘perfect’ wasn’t the right choice of words at that time. It didn’t have any cuts or injuries or anything like that.”
During earlier testimony, Sgt. Loo said he looked at the “totality of evidence,” in determining that a dismemberment was involved in this case involving Charli Scott. On redirect, Sgt. Loo described cuts on a jawbone found saying, “it looks like what I would describe as slash marks.” He further described observations of the jawbone as having “nicks” and “slashes,” saying, “it looked like just basically cut marks.”
Sgt. Loo was also asked about boars or pigs in the area of Nuaʻailua Bay and he reconfirmed during testimony that he did not see tracks, rooting marks or signs of wild boars at the site or in photos of the scene.
In an effort to establish foundation, the prosecution asked about Sgt. Loo’s knowledge of hunting, to which he noted that he has been hunting for more than 20 years and successfully tracked wild boars on his own a couple dozen times. He said that when hunting boars, he looks for where they’re rooting up, trails in vegetation, tracks and holes.
Rivera referenced a question raised by the defense on cross exam in which Sgt. Loo was asked if he saw pig bones in the area; to which Sgt. Loo said “that doesn’t mean there was a pig there.” When asked to explain what he meant by that, Sgt. Loo noted that hunters will sometimes leave certain parts of the pig behind or discard whatever they don’t want to keep.
Rivera: “When you said that doesn’t necessarily mean a pig was there, what did you mean by that?”
Loo: “That there were discarded carcasses along the highway.”
On recross examination, defense attorney Jon Apo asked Sgt. Loo about the possibility of boars in the area and their behaviors in cleaning their tusks, to which Sgt. Loo responded saying, “they rub it against trees or brush.” Apo also asked, “If a boar were cleaning out a tusk with blood on it, you would expect to find blood/marks in tree stumps?”
Turing questioning back over to the prosecution, attorney Rivera asked Sgt. Loo, if he was able to distinguish between machete and tusk marks in a tree stump. “Do tusk marks from a boar resemble the hack or cut marks from a machette?” said Rivera. “No sir,” said Sgt. Loo.
“What if any difference is there?” asked Rivera.
With a machete, Loo said, “you will see the slash marks.” For a boar, he said, “there is no cut marks, the outer bark will be rubbed away, but the tree still in tact.”
Rivera also asked Sgt. Loo, what if any consideration would be made in a missing persons case involving a child vs. one involving an adult. Sgt. Loo said that for adults, flyers are produced, checks are made of places they frequent and their photo is posted on the Maui Police Department website. In the case of a child, Sgt. Loo said an alert would be sent out and police would start canvasing the area as soon as they got the call.
Upon recross examination, Sgt. Loo agreed that when there is a juvenile involved, there is an enhanced sense of urgency.
During the next phase of the trial jurors posed questions to Sgt. Loo. The questions and answers included the following:
Q: Did the investigation pursue Mr. Capobianco’s mention of a strange male living at the same property of Scott’s rental unit? (Prosecuting attorney Rivera objected as to the accuracy of the question, but Judge Cardoza allowed its use). A: “Yes, we did look into that,” Sgt. Loo responded.
Q: Why didn’t you take pictures of the defendant’s hands in the first interview instead of waiting for the second interview (Defense Attorney Apo objected to the question, saying it was argumentative, but the objection was overruled). A: “At that time I had to notify my evidence tech to respond to the station and there’s other investigations going on that precluded us from taking photos at that time,” said Sgt. Loo.
Q: Why weren’t Maui Fire Department investigators involved with the burned SUV? A: “During my initial investigation, when I arrived on scene, I didn’t believe they were necessary at that time.”
Q: The crime scene of “Paraquats” and “Jaws” did not show the yellow crime tape in the area. Did this affect the integrity of the evidence? A: “The crime scene tape was further up the roadway… As far as footprints, we did note footprints and photographed what we observed.”
Q: Vehicular traffic possible/permissible on roadway above site of recovered items, or was it just a walking path? (Rivera objected saying the question was vague/confusing, but his objection was overruled) A: Loo responded saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about sir.”
Q: Sgt. Loo, you said he (Capobianco) was looking at his phone often prior to the interview, but in the interview he said he didn’t have his phone with him. How did you observe him looking at his phone? A: “I believed at the time he was looking at his phone. He had something in his hand that I believed to be his phone.”
Q: Sgt. Loo you said he (that the defenant) was looking at his phone a lot prior to the interview on 2/12/14. However, the defendant stated he did not have his phone with him. Just curious if he didn’t have his phone with him, is there a reason that you did not ask to see his phone? A: “Like I said, I thought he had his phone, it turned out not to be a phone.”
Q: You stated you watched/listened to the CD/audio in its entirety. While doing this, you fast forwarded through parts of the entire CD/audio? A: “Yes, I looked at it. I did fast forward it in some spots. I watched most of it. Some spots I did fast forward” he said.
Q: You testified that the defendant was cold towards you. A: “In my opinion. there was no sense of urgency, just basically nonchalant, He was not saying ‘why are you questioning me’ or ‘Let’s go find my child.’ That’s what I believe to be cold,” said Sgt. Loo.
Q: You used term suspect and person of interest. Are those terms the same or different? Can you define? A: “A person of interest is someone we may need to look into. A suspect is someone who , ‘Oh I think he might be involved,'” said Sgt. Loo.
Q: You stated that you were the primary investigator. You testified that on Tuesday at 6 p.m., Charlie’s car was located, but you didn’t reach the scene until 8 p.m. What was your delay? A: “At that time I was at home. I had to get ready, get my gear,” and get dressed, said Sgt. Loo. He also explained that timing was also dependent on traffic.
Q: Were the keys in the ignition in the burned vehicle of Charli Scott? A: “We did not observe any keys in the ignition,” said Sgt. Loo.
Q: Why wasn’t photos taken of the scene/area where the bloodied jeans were found before it was picked up and handled? A: “I don’t have any excuse for that,” said Sgt. Loo.
Q: Were the crime scenes of Charli’s burnt vehicle and her house dusted for fingerprints? A: “Her burned vehicle, no we did not dust for fingerprints. Her house, I believe our evidence tech, Tony Earls did dust some areas of her house.”
Q: Can you clarify as to how many missing persons cases you worked on? 10, 36, or 100 cases? A: “If you’re looking at my entire career, as a patrol officer, I can’t give you a definite number. As a detective, approximately 10-20.
Q: Wasn’t there a photo at Nuaʻailua Bay near the evidence found of a small tree with the bark rubbed off near the base of the tree? A: “To the best of my knowledge the tree did not have rubbings, it had a cut mark on it,” said Sgt. Loo.
Following the juror questions, prosecuting attorney Rivera and defense attorney Apo sought to gain clarity on some of the answers.
After refreshing his memory by looking at his records, Sgt. Loo noted that he received the assignment to respond to Peʻahi at 6:30 p.m., not 6 p.m., as stated in the juror question. He further stated that he was home in Wailuku when he received the call.
The prosecution also asked Sgt. Loo to show the jurors where the cut mark was that he observed on a tree at Nuaʻailua Bay. After the prosecution enlarged the photo for viewing, Sgt. Loo pointed to the area of the tree saying, “These are not rub marks, these are cut marks.”
In follow up questioning from defense attorney Apo, Sgt. Loo was asked about his review of a video while driving to Hāna and how accurate his testimony was when he said he had reviewed it. When asked if he was “half right” when he told the jury he had reviewed the video, Sgt. Loo replied saying, “I had the beginning and the end.”
Apo also asked Sgt. Loo, “When you testified you had no excuse of not having photos of the jeans recovered near mile marker 10, why would that be?”
Sgt. Loo responded saying, “Because the phone that I had back then died and whatever pictures I had are gone. That’s the reason why I had no photos.”
Apo also questioned Sgt. Loo about the tree trunk at Nuaʻailua saying, “Relative to that one picture of some tree trunk, would you agree with me that Anthony Earls (MPD evidence technician) took pictures of more tress that are similar to that?”
Sgt. Loo agreed, but said the marks on the tree in question were more consistent with a machette than with a boar. When asked what would be more consistent with a boar’s marks, Sgt. Loo responded saying, “The trunk or the tree branch, would not have all of the slash marks, it would just have the bark rubbed off.”