Capobianco Trial: Defense Questioning Focuses on Masking Tape

November 10, 2016, 8:49 AM HST · Updated November 10, 2:16 PM
Wendy Osher · 2 Comments
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The next phase of the ongoing murder trial of Steven Capobianco got underway on Wedneday with the defense calling to the stand a GIS map specialist and two employees from Mana Foods who had worked with the defendant.

The defense is expected to question a fourth witness today, Thursday, Nov. 10, when trial resumes in Maui’s Second Circuit Court.  Maui Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza had noted that the defense intended to present just two days worth of evidence after the prosecution rested its case last week.

The trial began with jury selection on May 23 and the testimony portion of the trial began more than four months ago on June 27th.

Capobianco is standing trial for the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Carly “Charli” Scott and for setting her vehicle on fire in February of 2014.  He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Peter Gehring, witness. (6.27.16) Photo by Wendy Osher.

Peter Gehring, witness. (6.27.16) Photo by Wendy Osher.

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GIS map specialist Peter Gehring answered questions about a map he was asked to produce last week, displaying two coordinates provided to him by the defense.  The coordinates included latitude and longitude, but Gehring said he had no knowledge of where the coordinates were derived from.

Gehring had been called earlier in the trial to testify on behalf of the prosecution.

A second map was produced with the same locations and same pairs of coordinates, but was zoomed in on the coordinates: 20.77248 degrees N latitude and 156.24479 W longitude; and 20.77265 degrees N latitude and 156.2485 W longitude.

Gehring said the distance between the two points was about 60 to 70 feet, and said that on the satellite image map, there appeared to be an access road in the area.  “It appears, barring any sort of fencing, that you could drive to the site.”

When the defense asked about accuracy of the software used, Gehring responded saying, “Like any software, be it your cell phone, Microsoft Word, operating systems, there could be errors.”

Gehring explained that an inset map in the upper right of the map was elevation derived product used to show topography.  A red square on that inset, he said, correlates to the zoomed in area of the main map, with the two coordinates contained within that red square.

Gehring said he has not personally been to the spots indicated by the two coordinates, but said, “I’ve driven past on the road that goes up to the crater, but that’s the closest I’ve ever been to that location.” “I’m not sure that I’ve ever noticed that access road was there because I wasn’t looking for it.”

Steven Capobianco (far left) with defense team M.Nardi (middle) and J.Apo (right). Photo by Wendy Osher 7.27.16.

Steven Capobianco (far left) with defense team M.Nardi (middle) and J.Apo (right). Photo by Wendy Osher 7.27.16.

Also testifying on Wednesday was John Palicki who had also appeared during the prosecution’s portion of the trial, during which he had indicated that the bakery at Mana Foods where both he and Capobianco were employed, had masking tape.

Earlier in the trial, witnesses testified that Scott’s clothing and blanket were found at Nuaʻailua Bay in an area known to some as “Paraquat’s Beach” located just east of Honomanū Bay.  In addition to a long black skirt and blue tank top, searchers also testified that they found a hooded gray jacket, black pants, (and) two empty rolls of tape.

Palicki told defense attorneys that the first time he discussed masking tape in relation to this case was when he was served with a subpoena to testify.

He was then presented with an image that he described as depicting a roll of 3M Scotch masking tape. Palicki said the image showed the brand that is currently used in the bakery at Mana Foods.  When presented with a separate image of masking tape that was presented as evidence earlier in the trial, Palicki said, “I have seen this specific brand before in photographs–this same photograph–but I don’t recall ever seeing it actually.”

Prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera then asked Palicki, “Back in 2014, were you aware of what kind of masking tape or brand of masking tape you would have used in the bakery back in 2014?” Palicki responded saying, “No sir.  The brand is inconsequential. It’s just a tool.”  He continued saying that in reference to the state’s exhibit, “I can not say yes or no, whether that is the one we had then.” Palicki said employees do not keep track of the tape and explained, “they just float around.”

A third witness, Bob Olson, who has been employed at Mana Foods as a driver and human resources worker for about three years, testified that part of his responsibility is making purchases for the store of items that are not in house.  “One of those items, evidently in question, is some masking tape, which is one of the things that I actually purchased,” he said.

As part of the defense exhibit, Olson brought in an example of the masking tape from the store’s stock that he purchases on a regular basis to show the size and brand used.  “The general manager insists that I purchase this particular size.  It’s a 1.41 inch masking tape, individually wrapped… I’ve been purchasing exclusively Scotch brand,” Olson said, noting that he traditionally goes to Home Depot to purchase the tape.

When asked to compare the roll of tape that he submitted as an example to another in a photograph of Scotch masking tape that was submitted as a defense exhibit, Olson said “It appears to compare one with another, however there aren’t any individual markings on Exhibit P.”

By looking at the prosecutions photograph of two tape rolls, Olson agreed that he could not determine the width of the rolls based on the photo.  Based on the photograph, Olson agreed that he had not purchased the type of tape shown in the exhibit.

Oslon was then asked he could not tell whether or not the type or brand of masking tape shown in the exhibit was ever in a Mana Foods store.  Olson testified that he did not start purchasing the individually wrapped Scotch masking tape until the ending part of 2013.  The discovery of tape rolls at Nuaʻailua occurred in February of 2014.

When he first started purchasing the tape, Oslon said he had purchased it in bulk form instead of individually wrapped.  Olson said that at a later point, Mana Foods general manager, Patricia E. Gagne, specifically asked that he purchase the individually wrapped rolls.

In response to a juror question about the possibility of another worker purchasing supplies when he is unavailable, Olson said that he has never taken a day off, but replied, “I suppose there is a back up driver; but he doesn’t have a corporate Visa card to use. I can’t really answer the question.”

Olson was also asked what he is instructed to do if the manager insists on a specific type of tape, and none is available.  Oslon responded saying, “Wait until that particular tape is available.”  He agreed with juror questions implying he has no control over someone who just goes out and decides to bring their own tape to work.

The trial resumes at 10 a.m. today, Nov. 10, 2016 before Maui Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza.

Charli Scott (left) courtesy photo; Steven Capobianco (right) by Wendy Osher (May 2016).

Charli Scott (left) courtesy photo; Steven Capobianco (right) by Wendy Osher (May 2016).

Case History/Background:

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 he said 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.

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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