Witness: “Frightened” After Seeing Capobianco in Hāna
In continued testimony on Friday, Jennifer Taylor, a former co-worker of Steven Capobianco said she was frightened after seeing the defendant in Hāna.
“From what I experienced, it was something that was different than what was told in the media,” said Taylor. “I felt frightened. Absolutely frightened… I had seen Steven and he’s telling people he was somewhere else,” she said.
In the days following Charli Scott’s disappearance, Capobianco had done an interview with Hawaiʻi News Now, 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 Keʻanae. According to the account, both headed back to Haʻikū, with Scott following Capobianco in case his vehicle broke down again.
“I know what I saw and then when you hear that, and you have someone missing, I was very frightened. There’s not a whole lot you can explain to people,” said Taylor.
Taylor said that upon hearing the conflicting report, she made an anonymous tip and followed up with a message to the Find Charli Scott Facebook page. She described feeling vulnerable saying, “You don’t know who you can trust. You don’t know who’s involved. That’s why I did the anonymous tip. I just tried to get this out to someone so that I could not be frightened,” Taylor testified.
Scott’s mother, Kimberlyn Scott responded to the Facebook inquiry and put her in touch with Maui police to report the sighting. During juror questions, Taylor was asked if she knew Scott’s mother and how they met.
Taylor testified that she did not know Scott and only met her last week in the court house hallway. “I talked to her and introduced myself because I had never met her,” said Taylor. “My family was with me and I gave my condolences to what she’s going through and didn’t really talk. You can’t talk about the case or testimony or anything,” she said, describing the exchange as polite and noting that the two exchanged “small talk.”
On cross exam, Taylor was asked to explain her reference to the conversation as “intense,” and she responded saying, “It’s very difficult to approach somebody, being this long. It’s been a few years… how to appropriately interact, and be kind and be considerate, but to offer a hello and so sorry for what you are going through. She wasn’t personally intense,” Taylor said, “She was very nice.”
In earlier testimony, Taylor said she had seen Capobianco between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. that night as he passed by a residence on the Hāna Highway near the Hāna Fire Station, about a quarter mile away from Hāna Bay.
Taylor was with others who had gathered at the home following a funeral earlier in the day. During testimony on Wednesday she had said, “I saw Steven drive by and I was shocked because I haven’t been out to Hāna in probably five years and he was the second co-worker I saw that day which makes it extremely memorable.”
During juror questioning, Taylor was asked, “Was it the look on his face that cast fear into you, or was it what you read or hear after?” Taylor responded, “To further explain, the initial kind of shock and scare was that look that gave me fear. I didn’t understand why I was feeling that. It was confusing… with the look on his face and the feeling that I had, it was confusing I didn’t really know how to process that. By the time that Friday rolled around and I read the article, I became even more afraid,” she said.
During testimony, Taylor said she saw Capobianco’s face, but not his eyes. “I didn’t make eye contact with him. He was focused. This way,” she said, as she faced forward and placed her hands as if they were in a two handed grip on a steering wheel, describing his hands as being in the “2 and 10” position.
“There’s some leeway time as the car approaches,” she said. “You’re going to start to see a face here, and it gets much more clear as he gets closer to me. Even as it’s coming, as it all comes clear, you’re able to register the recognition,” she said.
When asked how sure she was that the person she saw that night was Steven Capobianco, Taylor said, “Sure enough that I am here in court that I’m saying that I saw him in Hāna in a car that I did not recognize.”
During jury questioning, Taylor was asked to explain how she knew what was going on in the driver’s mind based on his facial expression and responded saying, “I don’t know what was going on in his mind. I know I have seen my friend, acquaintance, work-mate, not ever look like that before. I’ve never seen that look. So I can’t say how he was feeling. I don’t know what he was thinking.”
After observing the defendant’s face, Taylor agreed that it was then that she distinctly decided not to gesture or shout out for his attention.
Taylor said there were four bottle palm trees on the property and that she was standing by one of them closest to the road when she noticed a car driving by. When asked if there was anything obstructing her view, she said, “No.”
During cross exam, Taylor was asked about the lighting on the street and explained that there was a street light right on the border of the property line within a few feet of the home that, “cascades light across the road,” and, “illuminates the middle of the yard.” Taylor testified that there were also lights on in the house and on the deck of the home.
Defense attorney Jon Apo followed up with a question saying, “It sounds to me like if we took your premise in terms of lights, we would only have light posts on every other street. Is that right?”
Prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera raised an objection to the question, and Taylor further explained, “Considering there is not a lot of light pollution in Hāna, the light actually goes further. It’s not dissipated by light pollution like in a city,” she said.
During juror questioning, Taylor also explained that she saw the defendant from the front and side, but noted that she did not recall a beard and said he did not have long hair as she reached down and touched her own. When asked what type of clothing the defendant was wearing, Taylor said she could not recall, but it looked like it was a t-shirt.
Taylor was also asked if she saw the defendant drive back, to which she answered, “No, I did not.”
She was also asked to describe in detail the vehicle that she saw Capobianco driving on that night. “I saw a silver 4Runner. I can’t tell you the year. I do know that it’s a more rounder version,” she said, noting that it was more rounded around the edges than the one she had seen him driving earlier. “I remember the silver color. And remember it was a nice car. Compared to previous cars that I had seen him drive, it was nice. I was happy for him,” she said.
Taylor was also asked if she would be able to distinguish between a flat white or gray vehicle versus a metallic silver or champagne color, and she answered, “Yes. I actually had a champagne colored Toyota. So, yes.”
Deputy prosecuting attorney Tracy Jones asked Taylor what if any color differences did she notice between the two 4Runners that she had seen the defendant drive. Taylor said, “They’re silver, but they were different . Both were silver, but were different shaped.”
On cross exam, Taylor was asked if she noticed any front-end damage or damage to the hood of the vehicle. “I did not,” she said. Defense attorney Jon Apo then asked, “Based on your observations, would you say there was none?” Taylor responded saying, “I did not notice any damage, but that doesn’t mean there was none… I noticed it was rounder. You see the front-side. It’s more round there. You see it right away. You see the corner. My focus was on the driver, not necessarily the car,” she said.
Apo questioned Taylor further saying, “Would you agree with me, If you saw front end damage on the hood, you would not be calling it a nice, newer looking car?” Taylor responded saying, “I noticed the car and connected it all. It wasn’t like I knew I was going to be looking at the car. I wan’t going to examine the car… I noticed the car that looked like a nice truck, and thought oh maybe he had gotten a new car,” she said.
During juror questions, Taylor was asked if she would have been able to drive home after drinking that night. She responded, “Would I have chosen to drive home is probably the better question. Like I said, no one was getting drunk. We were at a funeral. We would maybe have another beer, talk story, have snacks. That’s how it flowed,” she said.
She said she was not planning on driving home that night and ended up getting a ride home the next day with her friend.
When she got back to town, Taylor had intended to follow up with Capobianco to ask why he was in Hāna. “I think it’s just natural. I felt comfortable enough to ask. I was curious,” she said. But when she heard conflicting reports in the media, she decided against it, and avoided going to her former workplace at Mana Foods, where Capobianco was still employed, even though that’s where she would shop often.
“I didn’t feel comfortable going in there. Most of the time my ex would go,” she said, noting that she did see Capobianco in the store on at least one occasion following her reported sighting of him in East Maui.
Nearly 30 individuals are still on the list of potential witnesses that may be called by the prosecution.
Trial is set to resume on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, at 9 a.m.