Piecing together what happened to 17-year-old Christopher Carioscia the night he went missing on Barona Indian Reservation last fall has been like "a giant puzzle," said the prosecutor in the murder trial Wednesday.
Stanley Virgil Lloyd Jr. stands accused of first-degree murder in Carioscia's death. The longtime associate and former schoolmate of Carioscia's was 19 when he was arrested earlier this year at his home at the Lakeside end of the reservation.
Carioscia, of Santee, went missing on Oct. 26, 2010. His burned out car was found on the reservation the following day and his body was found about six weeks later in a remote area of the tribal grounds.
"Each piece of information fills a bit of the puzzle and they all add up, supporting each other," said Deputy District Attorney David Williams III in his closing arguments at the El Cajon courthouse.
"This is about the murder of a 17-year-old boy with a difficult life," Williams told jurors. "He never had a chance to escape the shadows of his parents' lives. On what would have been his 18th birthday—Dec. 6—there was no celebration. Instead, Chris lay in a bag on a cold, steel table in a room full of death."
Williams clicked through a graphic PowerPoint presentation—including the room photo—to reinforce his statements.
In opening statements about two weeks ago, Williams told the jurors that Carioscia's parents had run "an ," using their son and about 40 other people to fill prescription forms and using Christopher to sell the drugs.
"Did Monika (Carioscia's mother) have problems?" Williams asked. "Yes, she did. Did she contribute to Chris's (lifestyle)? Yes she did. Imagine what it takes to take the witness stand and admit that."
Monika Pyskata, also known as Monika Younghusband, was seated in the public area of the court on Wednesday. She had testified in jail clothes, sobbing, at the beginning of the trial, following an arrest on drug charges.
Williams continued, "On Oct. 27, 2010, at 00:27 hours—just after midnight— Chris made his last phone call ever in his life.
"Where was he?" he asked the jurors.
"He was in Barona Casino gambling. Do we have the video of that?
"No. Months later, Detective Tsuida testified that she had exhausted all efforts to obtain the surveillance video from the casino."
The prosecutor complained of what he sees as other roadblocks.
"Andres Toro—the tribal security officer. He's paid by the tribe. Toro was asked on the witness stand, 'What's your job description?' His answer was, 'I give rides and do favors for tribal members," Williams told the jury.
"I do favors for tribal members!" — "That's a quote!" Williams laughed.
"He had been coached about what to say by his tribal security supervisor," Williams asserted. "Then he lied about it under oath. Then he admitted lying about it."
"His log completely left out the bonfire."
The description of a bonfire party near the tribal ballfields was pivotal to the prosecution's case against Lloyd. It was there that witnesses said Lloyd showed partygoers a revolver and said he'd killed people with it and that he'd disposed of a body and a car.
Witnesses testified the party happened about two nights after Carioscia disappeared. Some recalled a tribal security officer arriving and Lloyd saying not to worry about the drinking because he (Lloyd) "runs things on the reservation." They said Lloyd walked over to talk to the officer that night and the man never got out of his car. This was the incident that Williams wanted to find in the log book.
"Why lie?" Williams asked the jury about Toro. "Why would the tribal security officer lie? Because of what he's supposed to do. He's supposed to do favors for tribal members."
One of the partiers testified that she heard Lloyd say at the bonfire, "I bought the cop."
Lloyd is charged with first-degree murder and felony murder, using a firearm while committing a robbery. The prosecution argues Lloyd committed a robbery because Carioscia's wallet and cell phone were missing from his bullet-laden body. Williams also contends that Carioscia had filled a prescription for Xanax that day and was meeting Lloyd to sell the drugs to him. The drugs were never found. His cell phone records show he had been calling Lloyd all night.
The court heard from 30 witnesses in the trial. In his closing arguments, Williams accused a Barona teen of lying on the stand, after being coached by family.
"Can you imagine the pressure that poor kid was under, with all of those people in the audience watching him?" Williams asked the jury.
He also talked to the jury about a Barona defense witness who he recalled telling the court, "If you hear gunshots, you are supposed to call tribal security first, not the Sheriff's Department."
Lloyd's defense attorney countered by telling the jury that Williams' closing statements constituted "a murder novel."
"This morning I heard a story that was fascinating," Roland Haddad, of La Mesa, said of the prosecutor's statement. He said Williams "told you things that were the wings of his imagination," and he called Williams' argument "BS" and "garbage" before Williams objected.
Judge John M. Thompson overruled the objection—"This once, but get back on track," he told Haddad.
Haddad spoke for three hours in his closing arguments and will continue Thursday. The prosecution wrapped up in about two hours and will have rebuttal time.
Haddad went through the evidence and pointed out what he contended are holes or inconsistencies. He attacked the veracity of some young witnesses at the bonfire and "the quality of the investigation," saying that it had been passed "from one person to another."
"Five thousand phone calls were listened to after the murder. No mention of violence or a missing kid," he said of the wire taps. "Stanley's a big guy. All he had to do was slap this skinny little kid and take his pills and run. Why would he kill him? What's the motive?"
Williams said the key to the motive was how Lloyd saw himself.
"In his little pond on that Barona reservation, he's a big shot."
"Chris was nothing to him," he said. "Just some disposable kid from down the hill."
"But Chris's life deserves the same value and protection as every one of us here," he said in closing.
If convicted, Lloyd faces 50 years in prison.
The jury of roughly half men and half women has received the judge's instructions. Closing arguments continue Thursday in Thompson's courtroom, Department 16.