Capobianco Murder Trial Day 14: Evidence Handed Over to Police
Witness, Max Jones offered his testimony on Wednesday about a gruesome discovery at Nuaʻailua Bay, where he had gone with two others on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, to search for Carly “Charli” Scott.
The testimony came on the 14th day of the murder trial for Steven Capobianco, who is accused of killing Scott, his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Scott was 27-year-old and five months pregnant when she was reported missing on the evening of Feb. 10, 2014. Capobianco pleaded not guilty to the charges in July of 2014.
In earlier testimony, jurors learned that Capobianco had gone with Scott to a spot past Keʻanae on the evening of Feb. 9, 2014. He told police that his vehicle stalled out the day before, and he asked Scott to drive to the location so that he could fix and retrieve it.
Capobianco also told police that after successfully fixing his vehicle, Scott followed him out of the area in her own vehicle. He said he lost track of her at around Twin Falls, where he said he no longer saw her headlights behind him.
Questioning on Wednesday focused on items recovered from the scene at Nuaʻailua Bay, the organization involved in the search effort, and the handling of evidence.
‘Ping’ Prompts Search of ‘Paraquats’
Jones, who is the ex-boyfriend of Charli Scott’s half-sister, Fiona Wais, said he participated in searches at various locations in the days after Scott’s disappearance.
Jones testified that he had been part of a search at the Haʻikū lighthouse, with about 30 people on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, before he headed to the Haʻikū Community Center to regroup that same day.
While there, he said Phaedra Wais, Charli Scott’s youngest half-sister showed him a picture of what looked like a Google Map on her phone with a dot on it indicating where Scott’s last known ‘ping’ where her phone had lost connection.
Jones said Molly Wirth drove him and Phaedra to Nuaʻailua or “Paraquats” that afternoon. While he had never been to Nuaʻailua before, Jones testified that he was familiar with the bay leading up to the area because he had surfed at Honomanū before.
It took about an hour to reach the location, but it was still light out according to Jones. He said that when they turned off the highway and first started to drive down the dirt road leading to Nuaʻailua, they had to park on the side because the road was so bad.
The three walked down to the bay, looked around and didn’t find anything, so decided to walk back up the same way. On the way back, Jones said,” we looked at the (Phaedra’s) phone again and decided that the location of the ‘ping’ would be somewhere halfway between the paved road (Hāna Highway) and the ocean.”
“There was a bunch of trees and brush to the left of the road as you’re walking down to the ocean, so we decided to look in there,” said Jones.
As other witnesses had described, Jones agreed that the three stood about 15 feet apart and conducted a sweep of the area that he described as thick with brush and difficult to get through.
Discovery of Clothing in Dense Brush
Jones testified that he heard Wirth yell and say that she found something. “I think Phaedra yelled too,” he said.
Jones said he saw Phaedra came over with what he described as a CD in her hands, and he saw Wirth standing over a blouse. “At that point, I think Molly picked it (the shirt) up and asked Phaedra if it was Charli’s,” said Jones, who remembered seeing Phaedra put her hand over her mouth and “tear up a little bit.”
When asked about a photograph that showed the items, he also recalled seeing an article of clothing next to the shirt.
According to Jones, the three began searching for more evidence and got split up with Jones going through trees, roots, big rocks and brush towards the river.
He said he had gone about 15 to 20 yards when he came upon another disturbing find.
Blanket “Smelled Like Rotting Flesh”
Jones said he first saw a blanket that was covered in maggots. He said the “little white worms” covered the blanket and it “smelled like rotting flesh.” When asked to further describe the odor he said it was pungent and “makes you want to vomit.”
The blanket, he said, was a “little bit submerged” in the river and was hanging on the rock with the “bushes holding it from being swept downstream.”
When he showed it to Phaedra, he said she was “distraught” and started crying.
Jones testified that about 25 feet down the river, he observed two rolls of masking tape, one that was almost full, and one that was almost gone. He also described finding a grey jacket and a pair of pants by the river.
While he remembered handling the blanket, Jones said he didn’t know for sure who handled the other items.
Jones said he continued searching about 50 yards up the river towards the bridge and noticed that there was a decomposing boar that appeared to have been there for “for a long time.”
He then returned to the blanket. “I remember that it was getting dark and we didn’t know whether to leave it there or to take it so we discussed that, and then we decided to take the evidence,” said Jones.
As noted in prior testimony, the evidence was placed in Wirth’s truck near the tail gate on the right side.
Arrival at Haʻikū Home, Handling of Evidence:
Jones said the three planned to go back to Charli’s mom’s house, which was also where Jones was living at the time on West Kuiaha Road in Haʻikū.
When asked if he called anyone, Jones said he did not have his cell phone and that Phaedra had her phone with her, but it died.
Upon arrival a the house, Jones testified that the took the items that they had found and put them next to a bin. “I was going to spray the truck with a hose to get the maggots off that were in the truck,” he said.
“Johnny (Charli’s stepfather) stopped me,” Jones said. Jones said Johnny threw his hands in the air in anger, yelling and stomping. “He yelled at me and said not to do that.”
Prior to Jones’ testimony, the previous witness, Molly Wirth, answered questions from the jury.
JUROR QUESTIONS TO MOLLY WIRTH:
Q: On February 13 or 14, 2014, during the search at Nuaʻailua “Paraquats” did you use or have in our possession any tools to help you move through the brush such as an ax or machete. A: “I did not. I didn’t have anything in my possession. I don’t even think i had a backpack on.”
Q: Did the hole in the skirt appear to be more of a tear or a clean cut? A: “It seemed more like a tear, but I didn’t observe it very well.”
Q: Did you see any wildlife roaming the area, or tracks, droppings along searched areas? A: “With my job, I’m trained to search for pigs and pig activity. I didn’t notice anything. I can’t say. I wasn’t looking for pig activity.”
Q: Did you conduct any searches at Nuaʻailua besides walking along bay and searing between river and dirt road? A: “We definitely have gone back since. I believe a few times, even for work looking for miconia. We’ve searched pretty much the whole area since then. I feel like I know that area very well now.”
Q: How old were you on Feb. 13, 2014? A: “I would have been 23.”
Q: Is “Paraquats” a familiar location to you prior to Charli’s disappearance? A: “No. Prior to Charli’s disappearance I had never gone to ‘Paraquats’ before.”
Q: Are you trained in search and rescue? A: “After since Maui Search and Rescue, I haven’t been a part of it but I have been thinking about joining them, but at this point, no.”
Q: Besides Max and Phaedra did you tell anyone at the center that you were going to Nuaʻailua? If so, why? A: “I told Kim. I told Nikki where we were going.”
Q: Was your motorbike loaded to use for the search or just there on back of truck? Just curious. A: “I actually brought the bike for doing a Search and Rescue, cause I didn’t know what to expect. But I didnt need to use it.”
Q: Where did you get the orange tape from if you did not sign in? A: “Max, I believe got the tape. Max or Phaedra, but I didn’t personally get the orange tape.”
Q: Do you have a college degree to support your knowledge of vegetation and plants in the type of work that you do? A: “I went to MCC and took Horticulture and Hawaiian Ethno-Botany. I did go to school for a while. The plants that I spoke of is from growing up here and knowing the plants that I was surrounded by.”
Q: In the picture of just the blue polka-dot shirt taken with your camera, was that the original location? A: “That was before I even touched it. I didn’t move it at all at that point.”
Q: For being a person that works with plants and knowing what they look like, what color would the top leaves be on an adult kukui tree? A: “Light green.”
Q: Being a worker for MISC (Maui Invasive Species Committee, did you bring a GPS? A: “I, no, I didn’t bring a gps.”
The trial resumes on Friday, July 22, 2016 before Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza.