Friday, July 4, 2008

Prosecutors Challenge Cuadra's Alibi

Nep Maliki

According to the Citizens' Voice... accused killer Harlow Cuadra sent a handwritten note to an acquaintance last year, coaching him on ways to corroborate one of Cuadra’s alleged alibis, prosecutors said in a court filing Thursday.

In the note to Nep Maliki, Cuadra set the storyline for an alibi in which he claimed to be working as a male escort in Virginia at the time Bryan Kocis was killed in Dallas Township in January 2007.

Cuadra, 26, and Joseph Kerekes, 34, both of Virginia Beach, Va., are accused of slashing Kocis’ neck and stabbing his torso nearly 30 times and later setting his Midland Drive home on fire.

They face the death penalty and are scheduled to stand trial together before Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. beginning Sept. 2.

A hearing on pre-trial motions is scheduled for Monday*.

Cuadra told Maliki they had met at Cuadra’s home in Virginia on the morning of Jan. 24, 2007, the day Kocis was killed. They were there for about an hour before they showered together and Maliki left, Cuadra said.

“I guess the thing we need to get clear is the time you came over,” Cuadra said in the note. “Did you work early that day after you saw me? At what time did you go into work that day? Please check with your work.”

The note, which Cuadra told Maliki was “for his eyes only,” was included as an exhibit in the prosecutors’ answer to an omnibus pretrial motion filed by Cuadra’s attorneys in March.

Cuadra has offered conflicting alibis since his arrest, including that he was performing an escort call at the Fox Ridge Motel in Plains Township at the time of the murder, prosecutors said.

Cuadra sent an e-mail to Matthew Brannon of Fayetteville, N.C., attempting to bolster his Fox Ridge Motel claim, four minutes after the fire at Kocis’ house was called in to 911, prosecutors said.

Brannon, a computer expert, said the e-mail could have been sent from anywhere using a mobile air card. State police confirmed continuous Internet connectivity is available throughout the area where Kocis’ house was located.

Cuadra asked former escort client Howard Hallford to corroborate the Maliki story in a May 2007 interview with police. Hallford agreed, but then backed off, saying he had only seen Cuadra once in a two-week span in mid to late January 2007.

Attorneys in the case are under a court-imposed gag order and are not permitted to comment on filings or developments.

Prosecutors also asked to defer judgment on a defense motion for a change of venue to a location outside Luzerne County until after jury selection.

Cuadra’s attorneys said in a filing in May that media coverage of the murder had been, “extensive, inflammatory, sensational and highly inculpatory,” making the selection of an impartial jury nearly impossible in Luzerne County.

After jury selection, attorneys for both sides and Olszewski would have a better opportunity to “gauge the effect” of the media coverage on potential jurors.

* The Monday date is incorrect. The pre-trial motions hearing is scheduled for Tuesday (07/08/08)... the Citizens' Voice has since printed a correction.