Capobianco Trial: Hand Injuries Detailed, Warrant Executed for Hair Samples
An evidence specialist with the Maui Police Department detailed hand injuries observed on the defendant days after Carly “Charli” Scott went missing.
Police also answered questions on Monday about the chemical processing of Steven Capobianco’s vehicle for the presence of blood, and the execution of a search warrant to collect hair samples from the defendant as part of their homicide investigation.
Vincent Souki, who has worked as an evidence specialist with the Maui Police Department for 19 years, testified Monday in the murder trial for Capobianco, who is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and setting her vehicle on fire. Capobianco has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Souki works alongside fellow evidence specialist Anthony Earls, who has been on and off the witness stand since last week. Earls also testified on Monday, providing further information on items recovered from Nuaʻailua Bay in East Maui, including a tree stump that had cut marks in it as well as red hair recovered from the cuts in the tree.
Photo Series of Capobianco Reveals Injuries on Hands
During a Feb. 12, 2014 police interview, Souki was called in to take a series of photographs of Capobianco. “At approximately mid-day, I was contacted to photograph Steven Capobianco in the interview room in the police department,” said Souki who took a series of photographs, including full torso and head shots for identification of full frontal, side and back views.
The series also included photos of the back of both hands. Souki explained, “We always take the hands to determine whether there is any injury or not.” On the back of the right hand, a photo was taken to “define an injury across the back of the hand.”
Souki described an injury that extended along the back side of the right hand saying, “The abrasion appeared to be about 10 cm or about 4 inches and it was across the complete back of the hand from below the knuckles… in between the wrist and the knuckles, right across the back of his hand, and it kind of wrapped around the outside by the little finger,” describing the outside area as the “writer’s palm,” or the “outside surface of the back of the hand.”
Souki said, “As noted in the photograph, it appears to be a more deeper abrasion to the outside of the hand as opposed to the inside,” or webbing area that was described by the prosecution.
“The knuckles appeared to be a little red and possibly abraded–slightly abraded, not real definitive, but they are a little discolored, different from the other tissue than the other skin around the area,” said Souki. “They don’t appear to be very swollen or anything, but they appear to be a little discolored,” he said, noting that the discoloration was also visible on the back of the hand around the abrasion.
In describing the defendant’s left hand, Souki said, “His hand also had what looked like an abraded injury on the little finger–the first knuckle.”
“It appeared to be two linear lines that were right across the knuckle on the back of the left hand,” said Souki, noting that each of the lines was approximately three-quarters of an inch long. “It runs from the inside of the knuckle, what appears to be the knuckle, around the top of the knuckle, and around the inside surface of the hand,” he said.
In explaining injuries to the palms of Capobianco’s hands, Souki said, “It appeared that he had a little nick, some type of an injury on the inside of the palm (thumb).” Souki said the injury was a circular cut or scratch that was “a little red around the injury itself,” and measured a little more than a quarter inch in length.
While taking photographs, Souki said he heard Capobianco explain to Detective Wendell Loo how the injuries were allegedly sustained. “He mentioned to the detective that he got the injuries at work… He just said that he was a baker and he burned himself,” said Souki.
On cross exam, defense attorney Jon Apo asked Souki if the photos were completely consensual, to which the witness responded, “To my understanding, yes.” When asked if Souki observed any rotting smell on Capobianco, Souki replied, “Not at all.”
Capobianco’s Vehicle: Muddy and Cluttered
Later, on the same day, Feb. 12, 2014, Souki said he was assigned to photograph Capobianco’s vehicle in the back of the police station, in the motor pool near the gas pumps. In describing the condition of the interior of the vehicle, Souki said it was dirty and muddy, “with a lot of dried dirt and mud–very cluttered.”
Aside from the processing that he testified to, Apo asked if Souki received any other items, that were recovered throughout the course of the investigation. “How about a red towel (and) blue long sleeve shirt,” Apo asked. Souki could not confirm indefinitely saying, “I would have to look at the chain of custody report,” but said he believed that he did receive them for trying purposes.
Search Warrant, Collection of Hairs:
On March 19, 2014, Souki said he was given an assignment to collect known hairs from Steven Capobianco. He did so by visiting Capobianco’s residence on Kalipo Place in Haʻikū where members of the Maui Police Department’s Special Response Team initiated a search warrant.
Upon entry, Souki said he performed the collection of hairs while another officer observed as a witness to ensure that there were no improprieties.
Souki said he pulled about 20 hairs from each of 10 different areas for a collection of samples, pursuant to the court order, and in line with what the lab “required for standard samples.” The hairs were taken from 10 different places on Capobianco’s body including: (1) the head, (2) chest, (3) stomach, (4 & 5) armpits (both right and left), (6 &7) hairs from both arms, (8) the pubic hair, and (9 & 10) hair from both legs.
Souki said the hairs were put in individual envelopes and marked as to the location of where they were collected from. According to testimony, Souki said he brought the hairs back to the evidence processing lab, sealed them up individually with evidence proof tape and submitted them into evidence storage.
On cross exam, Apo asked Souki if there was an accounting as to how many hairs were collected from each region. Souki said there was not, but that he tried to get 20 from each region because it’s the amount that the lab suggests for collection.
Chemical Processing of Capobianco’s 4Runner:
Souki said he was also given an assignment, “to photograph and chemically process the vehicle for the presence of blood,” on June 4, 2014.
On cross exam, Souki noted that the processing of Capobianco’s 4Runner involved, spraying the interior of the vehicle with Luminol, and “looking for the presence of blood.”
Defense attorney Apo also asked if there was any odor or evidence of any smell of dead or rotting animals, and Souki said there wasn’t. On the other end of the spectrum, Apo asked if there was any smell like bleach and Souki said there wasn’t.
In his photograph’s Souki captured an image of the vehicle’s center console with a container of mace. At a later time, Souki said the mace pepper spray canister was swabbed for DNA, and the swabs were submitted into evidence on June 30, 2014. In reviewing the chain of custody for the item in court on Monday, Souki noted that the item had been sealed with an additional piece of tamper-proof tape from the Honolulu Police Department’s Scientific Investigation Section.
“When we swab an item for DNA, we use two sterile cotton tip swabs. One swab we wet with sterile water and completely wipe the item where ever we’re trying to pick up some kind of biological material from. And then we come back–our training taught us to come back with a dry swab and swab the area again for the second time,” said Souki, who noted that the swabs are then dried completely in the MPD’s evidence processing lab, and then packaged back into the sterile envelope.
Steven Capobianco is standing trial for the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Carly “Charli” Scott. He is also accused of setting her vehicle on fire.
Scott was 27-years-old and five months pregnant at the time with an unborn child fathered by the defendant. Capobianco has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In the days following Charli Scott’s disappearance, Capobianco had done an interview with police in which he said Scott had picked him up on the night of Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, and dropped him off at his truck that got stuck in Keʻanae on Feb. 8, 2014.
According to the account, both headed back to Haʻikū, with Scott following Capobianco in case his vehicle broke down again. Scott was reported missing the next night on Feb. 10, 2014, after she failed to show up for work and did not return phone calls and messages from her family members.
On Friday, a forensic entomologist testified about the recovery of maggots from Nuaʻailua Bay, and provided an estimate on the possible time of death. This week, testimony continues on police processing of evidence.
The trial is set to resume on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, in 2nd Circuit Court.