Maui News

Capobianco Trial: Witness Says He Never Gave Defendant a Ride to Work

August 24, 2016, 5:14 PM HST
* Updated August 24, 5:17 PM
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Kyle Knight. Photo 8.24.16 by Wendy Osher.

Kyle Knight. Photo 8.24.16 by Wendy Osher.

The murder trial of Steven Capobianco continued on Tuesday after a one week break, with testimony from Kyle Knight.

Knight, who was a friend of the defendant, testified that he helped Capobianco find parts for his vehicle, but never drove him to work, as the defendant had claimed in a previous interview with police.

Capobianco is standing trial for the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Carly “Charli” Scott.  He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.  Scott was 27-years-old and five months pregnant with a child fathered by Capobianco when she went missing in February of 2014.

Knight, who is a three year resident of Maui said he hung out with Capobianco maybe four or five times altogether and “quite often” discussed vehicle repairs.  He was friends with both Capobianco and Scott, who he met through his girlfriend at the time.

Help Sought in Previous Incident at Keʻanae

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He said Capobianco contacted him a few times with car problems, and on one occasion, several months before Scott went missing, Knight brought Capobianco a spare tire out in Keʻanae in the middle of the night.

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On that occasion, Knight said Capobianco had contacted him, asking him for help with his white Ford Ranger pickup truck.  Knight said he drove with his girlfriend at the time to Capobianco’s grandfather’s house to pick up a spare tire before meeting up with him at a spot between the Bamboo Forest and Keʻanae.

By the time Knight arrived, he testified, it was well past midnight.  “I unloaded the tire, talked for a quick second, saw what was going on, and hung out for a while while he (Capobianco) changed the tire,” said Knight.

According to Knight, Capobianco was with Taylor Farner, who was sleeping in the vehicle and did not get out of the truck. Knight said he left at around 2 a.m. to return home in Makawao.

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According to Knight, both Capobianco and Capobianco’s grandfather owned White Ford Rangers, but the defendant’s vehicle was “a little more beat up” and had a “little bit of a lift” on it.  “His grandfather kept his nice and cleaner,” said Knight.

Did You Ever Give the Defendant a Ride to Work?

Knight testified that in the afternoon on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, he received a Facebook message from Capobianco saying “Thanks.”

When asked what the defendant would have been referring to, Knight said, “He (Capobianco) had been looking for some tires for his truck and I had referred him to a friend,” said Knight, who testified that his friend tried to make Capobianco a good deal.

During earlier testimony, jurors heard an interview between Capobianco and detectives in which the defendant claimed his vehicle stalled about three miles past Keʻanae on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, he hitchhiked home, and he got a ride to work from Knight the follow morning on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.

According to Capobianco’s account, he asked Scott for help to retrieve his vehicle on Sunday evening, Feb. 9, 2014.  Capobianco told police that he was able to fix his vehicle, and that Scott followed him out of the area, but that he lost track of her headlights behind him at around the Twin Falls area.

Scott was reported missing on Monday night, Feb. 10, 2014 after she failed to return calls from family members and did not report to work that day.

During Tuesday’s testimony, prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera asked Knight, “Did you give the defendant a ride to work that day (Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014)?”  Knight responded, “No I did not.”

Rivera continued, “Did you ever give the defendant a ride to work on any morning?”  Knight responded, “No.”

Rivera then asked, “On Sunday when the defendant Facebooked you, did he ever tell you his truck was stranded in Keʻanae?”  Knight answered, “No.”

Learning “Charli” is Missing

Knight said that he learned of Charli Scott’s disappearance while checking his Facebook updates while on a date at the Maui Mall with his then girlfriend.

Knight testified, “I saw a picture of her (Charli Scott) and asked if that was the same Charli that we knew.”

“I just stood there in awe,” said Knight, who said his then girlfriend confirmed it was Scott and started calling some friends to get more information.

Recalling the Smell of “Death”

Knight, who was working on a construction job in Nāpili took a half-day off work and met up with his then girlfriend and other searchers in Nāhiku to help in the search for Scott.  The site had been identified as the location where Scott’s dog, Nala had been found.

When asked what the objective was, Knight answered, “To help in any way that I could.”

While driving to Nāhiku, Knight said he passed an area that smelled of “death,” and identified the area on a map in the vicinity of Nuaʻailua Bay.

Scott’s youngest sister, Phaedra Wais testified earlier that she and two other individuals found Scott’s clothing and personal items during a search of Nuaʻailua Bay or ‘Paraquats’ the following day, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.  Scott’s blanket was found “covered in maggots” and searchers also reported a foul stench that was likened to the smell of “rotting flesh.”

“I slowed down here and there. At that point, it’s my understanding that everyone was looking for skid marks or a car over a cliff. I kept my eyes open and tried to stay as a alert as possible on the way out there,” Knight testified.

“I talked to a couple of search members around that area and alerted them to that smell,” Knight testified.  He also mentioned the odor to members of the search party in Nāhiku and at one point while headed back, he said he also told the defendant of his observation.

When Knight arrived in Nāhiku, it was mid day around 2 or 3 p.m. and he joined the search, which covered a couple miles in each direction.  “We went a little more towards the Hāna side and found areas that people weren’t searching in, and hiked here and there.”

Knight said the search party regrouped at Nāhiku at around 4 or 5 p.m.  “About that time Steven showed up.  He was driving his second gen (generation) 4Runner,” said Knight, who observed Capobianco alone with his dog, Chunk.  “That was the first time I had seen him since everything started,” said Knight.

Knight said members of the search party were standing around talking and sharing information, but did not recall if the defendant participated in those conversations.

At one point, Knight and Capobianco talked for about 10 minutes.  “I wanted to be there as a friend. Everyone else was in a bad way with him,” said Knight.  During the conversation, Knight confirmed that he observed Capobianco crying, but a question from the defense relating to the reason for the crying was stricken when the prosecution raised objections.

Before leaving, Knight had suggested that a search be done of the area where he had smelled the foul odor.  “He (Capobianco) had told me that there was no need to,” search at the location, said Knight.

Knight recalled that Capobianco responded to his suggestion by saying, “he and the family had searched that area.”  Knight continued saying, “He implied that it was a waste of time.”

Kyle Knight. Photo 8.24.16 by Wendy Osher.

Kyle Knight. Photo 8.24.16 by Wendy Osher.

Rappelling Over Guardrail, Hubcap Recovered

While making his way to Peʻahi, Knight said he stopped in the Keʻanae area where he spoke with other search party members, and continued on to Nuaʻailua to the area where he reported smelling the foul odor earlier.

Knight said he observed a man in the same area where he had smelled the odor and pulled over telling the man, “It smells really bad over here.”

While looking over the guardrail, Knight said he noticed something shining about 20 to 30 feet down.   “I thought it to be a sliver dog bowl or something like that,” noting that Scott’s dog had been found in Nāhiku.

Knight said he tied a rope around the rail, asked the man to hold it for him and rappelled down a steep hill to retrieve the item.

When he reached the bottom, Knight said he found that the item was a full metal hubcap from an older vehicle and he brought it back up.  When asked what he did with the hubcap, Knight said he thought that maybe he threw it in the back of the truck driven by the other man at the scene.

When asked if he went down a dirt road at Nuaʻailua, Knight said he didn’t.  When asked if there was any road or path in the area of the smell, he said, “No, besides the Hāna Highway.”

Searchers Gather at Peʻahi

Knight testified that Capobianco had indicated that he needed to stop for gas in Pāʻia and plans were made to meet up with the others at Peʻahi or “Jaws,” but Capobianco never showed.

While en route to Peʻahi, Knight said he made contact with Capobianco once he got into cell range between Twin Falls and West Kuiaha Road.  Knight said it was still a solid half hour to 45 minutes before it got dark outside.

Knight testified that he wanted to let Capobianco know he was close to Peʻahi, but the defendant indicated that he was at home.  “Looking back at it I felt like he was regathering himself maybe.”

When Knight reached  Peʻahi, he said there were already people there along with a bunch of cops along the highway, who had blocked off the entrance.

“At that point, I called Steven,” said Knight, who learned soon after he arrived that Charli’s vehicle was found torched in the area.

“I guess he wasn’t that surprised.  It didn’t seem like he wanted to go down there or anything like that,” said Knight.

Kyle Knight. Photo 8.24.16 by Wendy Osher.

Kyle Knight. Photo 8.24.16 by Wendy Osher.

Peʻahi Search: Headlight, Access Panel, Bits of Jewelry Found

The following day, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, Knight said he met up with the search party at the Door of Faith in Huelo.  From there, he participated in a search around the Haʻikū area, which included a search by the lighthouse.

In the afternoon, on the way back to Door of Faith, Knight said search party members could see that police had reopened the Peʻahi area, and he went along with them to make checks of the site.

While there, Knight said he noticed a burnt headlight, a crossmember, an access panel for a fuel tank and other knickknacks at the burn area.  Knight, who owned a 4Runner of the same make and model, said the headlight looked just like the one in his vehicle.

During testimony, Knight pointed to a photo of the undercarriage of Scott’s burned vehicle and noted that it had a missing fuel tank.

Knight testified that one of Charli’s sisters had also noticed some tidbits of jewelry that was in the burn area.

At one point, Knight recalled Charli’s sister Brooke getting upset.  “She got really emotional and started crying hysterically,” said Knight.

According to Knight, one of the individuals at the site got a phone call and handed it to him.  The person on the other end informed him that Charli’s body had been found and that they were “repelling down to get it.”

Knight said he then relayed the information to Capobianco.  “The first thing he asked was, ‘How?’,” said Knight.  “It was very, as a matter of fact,” said Knight of Capobianco’s tone.  “He didn’t seem very excited or surprised,” said Knight.  He just said, “How?” according to Knight.

In earlier testimony, lead detective Wendell Loo pointed to photographs and described hair clumps, bone fragments and clothing allegedly belonging to the victim that were recovered from Nuaʻailua Bay in East Maui.

While jawbone pieces and flesh were recovered, an actual body was never found.  Prosecutors had said during an opening statement that a forensic anthropologist conducted a trauma analysis and found fractures showing “dismemberment.”

Cleaned Up 4Runner

Some time after Scott’s vehicle was found, Knight recalled seeing Capobianco at the Sac N Save in Wailuku.

“I had come out of Sac N Save and had noticed his 2nd ‘gen’ 4Runner there,” said Knight, who said he waited for Capobianco to come out.

When Capobianco exited the store, he was with his cousin, according to Knight.  “We talked 5 to 10 minutes and he showed me the sounds he installed,” said Knight.

“He talked about how he has a bunch of free time, and that he’s not really going anywhere, so he had his truck pretty much cleaned up… He made it all pretty. Washed it.  Vacuumed it,” said Knight.

When asked if he had ever seen the defendant with a clean 4Runner, Knight said, “Not that clean.  He wasn’t exactly known for keeping his stuff clean or nice or organized.”

Within the first couple of weeks of Scott’s disappearance, Knight said he provided Capobianco with information about the search, but as time progressed, communication was less.

Search Effort Scaled Down

Knight said he stopped searching a couple of weeks into the search effort, right around the time divers and Jet Skis were brought in.

“A lot of the searching had been fizzled down.  People had to get back to work.  They were doing more direct searches with cadaver dogs and not needing, I suppose, a lot of people,” he said.

Knight recalled the last time he saw Scott in person and said she was with one of her sisters.  “I’d say it was a couple of days within the last week of her disappearance,” he said, noting that Scott lived nearby.

“She was pulled over under one of the trees,” said Knight, who was on his way to work.  “I had stopped for a second and was just joking with her,” said night, who told her, “quit wrecking that nice truck,” noting that the front end was all smashed.  “She just kind of smiled, laughed and said, ‘hi,'” according to Knight.  “That was the last time,” he said.

The trial was scheduled to resume today with further testimony from Knight and juror questions of the witness.

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