TV Reporter Testifies at Capobianco Murder Trial

August 6, 2016, 6:46 AM HST · Updated August 6, 7:03 AM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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Mileka Lincoln, Hawaiʻi News Now reporter. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Mileka Lincoln, Hawaiʻi News Now reporter. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Television news reporter Mileka Lincoln testified on Friday in the ongoing murder trial of Steven Capobianco, who is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Carly “Charli” Scott in February of 2014.  He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lincoln had interviewed the defendant within days of the disappearance and said there were “quite a few” details that she learned from that initial phone call.

A preliminary hearing was held to determine if the person she called was actually the defendant, but after two hours of testimony without the jury present, Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza said he was satisfied that there was, “a more than sufficient factual basis (established) relative to the identity of the caller.”

 Mileka Lincoln, Hawaiʻi News Now reporter. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Mileka Lincoln, Hawaiʻi News Now reporter. Photo by Wendy Osher.

“There were details relating to the contact of my phone call which he didn’t dispute. There was no reason not to believe he was who he said he was,” said Lincoln. “Following that conversation we went to a property where Steven was staying and were told that Steven no longer wants to talk to you.  That would have been just a few days later because at that point body parts had been found,” said Lincoln.

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Judge Cardoza ultimately allowed the jurors to review a redacted version of the interview transcript that excluded commentary about the results of a polygraph test that Capobianco said he had taken.  That information was not provided to the jury.

Steven Capobianco. Photo 8.5.16 by Wendy Osher.

Steven Capobianco. Photo 8.5.16 by Wendy Osher.

Lincoln said she has worked for Hawaiʻi News Now as a general assignment reporter for three and a half years, covering anything that is considered news of the day. She said she was the initial reporter from the station to cover the missing person case involving Charli Scott in February of 2014.

According to Lincoln, she was first contacted by Scott’s family members on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2014, who had reached out to the station when Charli first went missing.

Lincoln said the family asked what could be done at that point because Charli hadn’t been missing long enough to file a missing person’s report.  “She was five months pregnant and the family was distraught,” said Lincoln.  According to Lincoln’s testimony, family members “realized she (Charli Scott) had made it home, but not to work.”

“The obvious question when someone goes missing was, who was the last person to see her.  So naturally as a journalist,” she said, that’s something to look into.  “I specifically asked who was the last person to see Charli and the answer to that question was Steven Capobianco,” Lincoln testified.

When speaking with Charli’s mother, Kimberlyn Scott, Lincoln said “Kimberlyn did not have Capobianco’s number offhand, so she had gotten it from her daughter Brooke, from my understanding.”

When asked if Scott’s mother, Kimberlyn informed her of Capobianco’s role in the investigation, Lincoln said, “At that point there wouldn’t have been an investigation… They thought perhaps she had gotten into a car accident. That if anyone sees her car in a ditch or on the side of the road to contact authorities immediately.  That’s what they wanted put on the news,” she said.

When Lincoln reached out to Capobianco on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, the two had a conversation that lasted between 20 minutes and a half-hour, according to Lincoln’s testimony.  The interview was transcribed, because during the course of questioning, Capobianco had indicated that he did not want his voice on the news, but Lincoln said, he “did consent for the interview to take place and use of the answers.  He did not object to recording it.”

When asked about the content of the interview, Lincoln said Capobianco realized that something was wrong when cops showed up at his house the morning after Charli was reported missing.

According to the transcript, Capobianco said police had been questioning him: “They haven’t really told me anything.” “I mean, it’s undeniable that I’m probably the prime suspect, so they’re not going to tell me any details.”

According to Lincoln, audio interviews are typically kept in the station’s system for a week before they are cleared, but given the nature of the call, Lincoln said she took the extra step of saving the file to a computer at work that had since crashed, and was lost.

When the story aired, it included only excerpts of the interview that were transcribed to create a graphic for viewers to follow along.  The full transcript of the interview was posted online and is included below: *(The section of the script that is in light blue type was redacted from the jury’s review and will not be considered as evidence in the case).

“Hi, my name is Mileka Lincoln I’m calling from Hawaii News Now, KGMB/KHNL. I’m calling to see if I can ask you some questions about the ongoing search for Charli — I know that you’ve helped to participate in it and I know there are questions about you being the last person to have seen her. I just wanted to see if we could clarify some things.”

Steven: “Go for it.”

Mileka: “I’m going to record this if that’s okay, and this is going to be for our coverage. Tell me how you know Charli.”

Steven: “First off, I don’t want my voice on the news.”

Mileka: “You do not want the recording used?”

Steven: “Yeah, I do not want the recording used. I don’t want my voice coming out on everyone’s TV on this island.”

Mileka: “I understand.”

Steven: “But I will answer all of your questions and you guys can record it for your own personal use.”

Mileka: “Ok.”

Steven: “So I knew Charli because she was my ex-girlfriend from three or four years ago {asks someone, “Does that sound right?”} Five years ago, it was five years ago and we have kept in touch this entire time. We were still friends. We still knew each other.”

Mileka: “Are you the father of her unborn child? That’s what we’ve been told.”

Steven: “That’s what I’ve been told. I never got a piece of paper that said it or anything, but I would believe it.”

Mileka: “So were you guys dating again?”

Steven: “No, we just occasionally hooked up.”

Mileka: “So tell me about what happened Sunday night.”

Steven: “Sunday night? She picked me up from my house at 8:30, drove out to my truck that I got stuck in Keanae and she dropped me off at my truck — it took me about 10 minutes to fix my truck, ’cause I had extra light tools with me at that time. And then we came back to Haiku. And I’m pretty sure I saw her lights in my rearview the entire time. I’m absolutely certain I saw her headlights in my rearview mirror until I got to Twin Falls and then I started speeding up ’cause I drive a little faster than she does.”

Mileka: “What made you speed up ahead of her?”

Steven: “I was in front of her in the first place, in case my truck broke down and she would pull up behind me.

Mileka: “Right, that makes sense. So it was around Twin Falls that you say that you stopped seeing her headlights?”

Steven: “Yes.”

Mileka: “And did you call her at any point afterwards just to make sure she’d gotten home? Or…”

Steven: “I actually didn’t think to do that until the next morning. I sent her a text that said, ‘Thank you’ but I figured she was working, that’s why she didn’t get back to me right away and it wasn’t until the cops showed up at my house at 5:30 in the morning the next day that I realized something was wrong.”

Mileka: “And so when the cops arrived, what did they tell you?”

Steven: “They said, they told me that her parents had filed a missing person’s report and gave them my name and they came to my address just to follow the lead.”

Mileka: “Have they officially questioned you? Sometimes they make people take a lie detector test.”

Steven: “I volunteered for all of that. I went down there as soon as I could. I let them interrogate me. I let them polygraph me. I did everything.”

Mileka: “How’d the polygraph go?”

Steven: “To the best of my knowledge, it went ok.”

Mileka: “Did you pass, fail?”

Steven: “The Police told me I failed.”

Steven: “They didn’t make me take it again. I’m honestly not convinced I failed, I think they might have just said that as a tactic, but I really don’t know I’m walking around right now without handcuffs on.”

Mileka: “So what do police tell you?”

Steven: “They’ve just been questioning me. They haven’t really told me anything.” “I mean, it’s undeniable that I’m probably the prime suspect, so they’re not going to tell me any details.”

Mileka: “Was the dog Nala with Charli when she came to pick you up?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Mileka: “So does it make sense to you how Nala was found?”

Steven: “No.”

Mileka: “But Nala was still in the car with Charli when you guys left Keanae?”

Steven: “Yep.”

Mileka: “What do you think about the fact that the car was found torched and on its side?”

Steven: “I’m not really sure what to think about that yet.”

Mileka: “Is that a problem area?”

Steven: “I mean, probably. Did they say that was the only car torched and flipped over, ’cause that’s a load of crap. There’s like a dozen of them down there.

Mileka: “Oh, really? So this is something that happens in that area a lot? I don’t know — that’s why I’m asking.”

Steven: “Yeah, Peahi is a pretty bad notorious area for people who steal cars to go and ditch them.

Mileka: “And so what do they do? Strip them and torch them?”

Steven: “From what I’ve seen just by driving by, yeah – it looks like it.”

Mileka: “And I’m sorry, you said the spot was Peahi?”

Steven: “Yeah, or the Jaws area if that’s what you guys want to call it but the road is called Peahi.”

Mileka: “Peahi Road, okay — we want to make sure we’re being accurate.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Mileka: “What is it that you want — and I understand that you don’t want your voice to be used — but in terms of what you’re sharing and telling us, what is it that you want viewers to know?”

Steven: “I mean, I don’t really care what they know. I just want Charli to be found.”

Mileka: “Did you do anything to hurt Charli?”

Steven: “Absolutely not.”

Mileka: “Do you understand why people think you might have?”

Steven: “Of course.”

Mileka: “So what’s next for you, what is your next step?”

Steven: “I’ve been doing everything I can to try help her, but her family is getting hostile with me so I’ve just been — I’m sitting here at my house just waiting for any news to come through.”

Mileka: “Are you worried about your safety at all?”

Steven: “A little bit, but that’s of little consequence because Charli’s safety is first and foremost.”

Mileka: “Steven, do you think they’ll find her?”

Steven: “I don’t know. I f–king hope so.”

Mileka: “Did you love her?”

Steven: “Of course.”

Mileka: “Were you excited about being a dad?”

Steven: “Sort of. It was unexpected. She didn’t tell me right away, but it was growing on me.”

Mileka: “Yeah, I guess you had more time, huh?”

Steven: “Yeah. I mean last time we talked we were talking about naming it. I thought we were getting there.”

Mileka: “Was that on Sunday?”

Steven: “Yeah, that was on the ride out there.”

Mileka: “Do you know if you were having a boy or girl?”

Steven: “I don’t know for certain, but I was really hopeful that it was a boy. What man doesn’t want a son?”

Mileka: “Do you know what she was hoping for?”

Steven: “She was probably hoping for a girl, what woman doesn’t want a daughter?”

Mileka: “But you guys didn’t talk about the sex?”

Steven: “She didn’t know. Somebody else was supposed to know and it was supposed to be like a surprise at the baby shower and all that crap. So they never told me either because they didn’t want me to spill the beans to her.”

Mileka: “I see, they wanted to do it like that.”

Steven: “Yeah, it’s kind of old school. Traditional.”

Mileka: “That’s cool.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Mileka: “So you literally just sit and wait, the cops didn’t call you after Charli’s car was found?”

Steven: “I had a friend who notified me, but the cops never did.”

Mileka: “Is it true that you live nearby?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Mileka: “You think that someone might be trying to set you up?”

Steven: “I never really considered it until you said something, but maybe.”

Mileka: “I mean, if you didn’t do anything — right?”

Steven: “I definitely did not do anything.”

Mileka: “It would sure seem like it then.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Mileka: “You have any enemies?”

Steven: “Her family.”

Mileka: “Just her family?”

Steven: “They’re the only people I can think of that would not like me enough to do anything about it. Everybody else on the island seems to love me.”

Mileka: “So did you never have a good relationship with them? Or did you used to have a good relationship when you guys were dating?”

Steven: “No, I mean — me and Charli always had a pretty good relationship but not me and her family.”

Mileka: “How long did you guys date?”

Steven: “I don’t really recall, two years — maybe three.”

Mileka: “It was for a little while then.”

Steven: “It was for quite a while, we lived together in a three bedroom house for a minute.”

Mileka: “But you’ve been broken up for about four or five years?” {someone tells him, ‘I think it’s more like three or four.’}

Steven: “It might be more like three or four, it wasn’t really something I cataloged.”

Mileka: “I understand.”

Mileka: “Was the family excited about Charli being pregnant?”

Steven: “I believe so. I had never talked to them about it. I had never had any contact with her family since I stopped dating her, up until they wanted me to come help them — Monday morning when the showed up.”

Mileka: “Monday morning they showed up?”

Steven: “They showed up — one of them showed up at work and told me what was going on and then called me later and I rushed out to show them exactly what had happened the night before and proceeded to help them look.”

Mileka: “What do you think might have happened to Charli? Do you think there’s a chance she just got tired of life on Maui and left?”

Steven: “I don’t think so, not under these circumstances. She was a very caring person and she loved her dogs. and to have one of her dogs show up in Nahiku and one of her dogs had been locked in her house for a whole day — she wouldn’t do that Above all else, she would not leave her dogs unattended.”

Mileka: “Do you think Charli may have had any enemies?”

Steven: “That’s hard for me to say. I didn’t hang out with her very often. But, I mean, she had kind of a mouth on her — I could see her pissing somebody off. But again, I don’t want to speculate — I don’t know for certain.”

Mileka: “I understand.”

Steven: “Her family might be able to better answer that one.”

Mileka: “That is a good question for them, you’re right.”

Mileka: “What’s next for you Steven?”

Steven: “I don’t know. I’m going to do everything I can to help.”

Mileka: “Are you still participating in the searches?”

Steven: “In my own way, but as a said — the family’s getting kind of hostile, so I stopped joining the search party myself. I’ve sort of ventured out on my own.”

Mileka: “Can I give you my information and will you be in touch if you learn anything or you can point in a direction we should be looking?”

Steven: “Absolutely.”

While the above conversation was the first between Lincoln and Capobianco, there were other conversations that followed via both text and phone.

One of the phone calls was a call back on the same day to ask Capobianco again if he would consent to using the audio in coverage, but he expressed again that he did not want his voice used, said Lincoln.

The next phone call was the very next day because the case was already starting to gather national attention. Lincoln testified that Dateline, CBS This Morning and CNN had called, wanting Capobianco’s phone number.  “I took their information and called Steven back to let him know there had been interest and he took it (the information),” said Lincoln.

As the case progressed, Lincoln said, “sometimes he would answer, sometimes he wouldn’t.”

In a subsequent communication to Capobianco, Lincoln had texted him indicating she had heard a body was found.  She said she did not receive a response to that message.

Relative to the internet post containing the transcript of her first contact with Capobianco on Feb. 13, 2014, Lincoln was also asked about the content of the article posted above the transcript.

She testified that while she posted the initial content, she did not necessarily write it.  “We already had three reporters and all of our producers on the case,” she said. “Everything that we do has to be looked over by a web producer, including links to previous stories. Hawaiʻi News Now takes responsibility for the content of the post,” Lincoln testified.

She also indicated that additions would have been made by another reporter or producer to update the story as developments took place.

During cross exam, defense attorney Jon Apo sought to confirm the accuracy of a particular statement in the report: “The family called police Thursday evening and were apparently told them to stay there with the items until a detective arrived.  But the sister instead drove the items to the police station in Kahului where the clothes and blanket are being processed.”

During earlier testimony, it was learned that the items were taken to Scott’s mom’s Haʻikū home where police responded and took the items into evidence.

Lincoln asserted her first amendment protection and said the line of questioning went beyond the scope of what she had agreed to testify about.  She said that her testimony was to be, “limited to authenticating the transcript,” and said, “While the defense has a job to do, I do as well.”

Judge Cardoza said the threshold of the argument was not about authorship or publishing capabilities, but rather the witness’ ability to accurately represent what the defendant had said.

JUROR QUESTIONS: “Did You Structure Any Questions in the Past Tense?”

Lincoln’s testimony concluded with answers to two juror questions.

The first juror question was: Did you sense any hesitancy at all from Steven Capobianco on your interview on Feb. 13, 2014 to answer any of your questions?

Lincoln replied, “All I can tell you is that I transcribed the interview in its entirety based on each question asked.” Anytime she may have heard someone insert a statement, she said it was noted. “I didn’t note tone. As a journalist its not my place to infer, but just to state the facts.  All I can tell you is what’s in that transcription word for word,” she said.

The second juror question was: In the interview with Steven Capobianco, did you structure any of your questions in the past tense?

“Again, that’s a very good question. My line of questioning did not start out that way, but even I fell into a past tense, based on the response that I was getting from Steven Capobianco during our conversation on the phone,” Lincoln replied.

On followup, prosecuting attorneys made reference to one of the very first questions in which Lincoln asked, “Tell me how you know Charli,” to which Capobianco responded, “So I knew Charli because she was my ex-girlfriend from three or four years ago {asks someone, “Does that sound right?”} Five years ago, it was five years ago and we have kept in touch this entire time. We were still friends. We still knew each other.”

Lincoln testified, “Charli at the time was just missing.  There was no reason to believe that she was no longer with us.”

Lincoln was excused with the remaining hour and a half of the day dedicated to continued testimony from Capobianco’s ex-girlfriend, Cassandra Kupstas.

*Check back for a separate recap of Kupstas’ testimony which will be posted this weekend. 

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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