Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cuadra Trial... Day 10 Overview

The Times Leader reports this morning that Joseph Kerekes admitted he killed Bryan Kocis.

Harlow Cuadra said Kerekes didn’t do it.

Cuadra, 27, made the statement to Luzerne County Det. Lt. Daniel Yursha and Dallas Township police Sgt. Doug Higgins, who were investigating the January 2007 murder of Kocis.

“Our official purpose was to notify and read the criminal complaint to Harlow Cuadra,” Yursha testified on Monday during Cuadra’s capital murder trial before a Luzerne County jury.

It took 75 minutes to read the arrest records to Cuadra after his arrest in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 15, 2007, Yursha said. Yursha and Higgins then asked Cuadra if he was hungry.

“He blurted out, ‘Joe didn’t do it,’” Higgins told the jury. “The last thing he said was, ‘Joe didn’t do it.’”

Investigators alleged Cuadra and Kerekes, 35, plotted to kill Kocis, 44, whom they considered their main rival in the gay film production industry. Kocis was found dead with a slashed neck, and 28 stab wounds, inside his Midland Drive, Dallas Township, home that was set ablaze on Jan. 24, 2007.

A motive to the murder, prosecutors claim, was Cuadra and Kerekes wanted to film movies with Sean Lockhart, a contract adult film actor for Kocis’ company, Cobra Video.

Assistant district attorneys Michael Melnick, Shannon Crake and Allyson Kacmarski rested their case against Cuadra on Monday, spending 10 days and calling 86 witnesses to testify in hopes of convincing the jury to convict Cuadra.

Cuadra could face the death penalty if convicted of first degree murder.

Kerekes pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and is serving life in prison.

Cuadra’s attorneys, Joseph D’Andrea and Paul Walker, issued a subpoena for Kerekes, who may testify on Cuadra’s behalf today.

D’Andrea and Walker further issued a subpoena for Bobby Lee Komrowski, who wishes to withdraw his recent guilty plea of third-degree murder in the killing of his girlfriend Amy Comly in October 2007. Komrowski, 50, was jailed for more than a year at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility where Kerekes was housed until he was transferred to state prison three months ago.

Kocis’ father, Michael Kocis, testified on Monday telling the jury about the times they went bow hunting. Bryan enjoyed target shooting with handguns, and was a private person, Michael Kocis said.

“You couldn’t just drop in, he was very private,” Michael Kocis told the jury.

He tearfully recalled when he learned about his son’s death.

“I broke down and cried,” Michael said. “I couldn’t believe it was actually him; he was basically burned beyond recognition and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”

Kocis’ father said he wasn’t aware his son was involved in the production of adult films. He told the jury that several items, including a Rolex watch and two laptop computers, were missing from his son’s home.

Prosecutors attempted to establish during the trial that Kocis’ murder involved felony crimes, a requirement for the death penalty.

Veteran criminal investigator state police Cpl. Leo Hannon Jr. was the last witness to testify for prosecutors, summing up the entire case that involved numerous trips to Virginia Beach, consulting with experts in the telecommunications industry, San Diego, Calif., police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Naval Intelligence Unit, U.S. Attorney Offices and a Sony production facility in Japan.

Two Sony digital cameras with obliterated serial numbers found under a towel in the Virginia Beach, Va., home of Cuadra and Kerekes were the same exact models missing from Kocis’ residence, Hannon said.

Hannon said the cameras seized from the Virginia Beach home were analyzed by the FBI in Virginia, and shipped to Sony corporate offices in Japan. Sony engineers were unable to find a second serial number on both cameras, Hannon said.

A majority of the witnesses during the trial were representatives and experts in the telecommunications industry as prosecutors attempted to link Cuadra and Kerekes to Kocis’ murder by numerous e-mails and phone calls.

Trooper Brian Murphy, a computer forensic investigator, said Cuadra and Kerekes set up a bogus Yahoo! e-mail account in the name of Danny Moilin, and applied to Cobra Video on Jan. 22, 2007.

The application caught the attention of Kocis, who sought more information from Moilin and arranged to meet him at his Dallas Township home on Jan. 24.

Investigators traced the e-mails to the home of Cuadra and Kerekes, and learned they traveled in a rented 2006 Nissan XTerra to the Wyoming Valley on Jan. 23, when they checked in at the Fox Ridge Inn in Plains Township.

Prosecutors showed an enlarged copy of the motel guest sheet to the jury on Monday, illustrating Kerekes began to fill out the address section writing, “1028 Stra,” but crossed it out and wrote an address in Roanoke, Va., with a Florida zip code.
Meanwhile over at the Citizens' Voice... Bryan Kocis lived such a private life at his Dallas Township home, even his own parents had to call before stopping by, his father testified Monday in Harlow Cuadra’s capital homicide trial.

“We couldn’t just drop in on him,” Michael Kocis said. “We had to notify him before hand. If it was out of the ordinary, we were just passing by, we’d call him from down the road to let him know we were coming.”

Michael Kocis, as one of prosecution’s last witnesses, reaffirmed various pieces of prosecution evidence — his son’s private life, the Rolex watch he owned and other details. But, when had to remember his son’s horrific death Michael Kocis was unlike any previous witness. He could barely continue.

“I broke down and cried,” he said, before pausing to cry. “He was basically burned beyond recognition … I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”

Eight new witnesses testified Monday, as prosecution rested its case against Cuadra, who is accused of stabbing Bryan Kocis to death and setting fire to his Dallas Township home in January 2007. Cuadra, prosecutors say, wanted to kill Kocis, 44, a rival pornography producer, to further the gay pornography business he co-owned with Joseph Kerekes in Virginia Beach, Va.

Nearly 90 witnesses have testified for more than 70 hours, and prosecution, lead by Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick, has presented hundreds of pieces of evidence during 10 days of testimony.

Today, Cuadra’s attorneys, Joseph D’Andrea and Paul J. Walker, will begin presenting their evidence, expected to be much shorter. Kerekes, 35, pleaded guilty in December and is serving a life sentence for second-degree homicide. Cuadra and Kerekes are expected to testify for the defense. Throughout the trial, D’Andrea and Walker have tried to insinuate that Cuadra was subservient to Kerekes, the real killer. But if Kerekes tries to take the blame when he testifies, prosecutors will likely cite previous statements Kerekes made identifying Cuadra as the one who stabbed Kocis.

Cuadra listened, Monday, as several of the lead investigators in his case testified to their role in arresting the 27-year-old Virginia Beach man.

During wire-tapped conversations in San Diego in April 2007, Cuadra mentioned several aspects of the crime that weren’t public yet, testified state police Cpl. Leo Hannon.

Cuadra mentioned Kocis drinking the night he was killed, phone calls made by Kocis that night and the engraving, BCK on the back of Kocis’ Rolex, during the wire-tapped conversation. None of that was known publicly at the time, Hannon said, indicating that Cuadra was present during Kocis’ death.

Walker asked if Cuadra could’ve been told that information by someone else who saw Kocis killed. Hannon agreed it was possible.

Cuadra had just heard the charges against him when he blurted something out, Luzerne County Detective Daniel Yersha testified.

“(Cuadra) said, ‘Joe didn’t do it,’” Yersha said.

Cuadra and Kerekes were arrested in May 2007 in Virginia Beach, Va. Yersha and Dallas Township Police Sgt. Douglas Higgins testified they had read Cuadra his charges and asked him if he wanted a drink, when he made the comment.

Walker asked during cross-examination if Cuadra was just trying to cover up for his friend. Maybe, Yersha said, but the response was unprovoked.

“Did Harlow Cuadra ever say he killed Bryan Kocis or he knew who killed Bryan Kocis?”

“No,” Yersha said.

Yersha and Higgins also testified Cuadra said other unprovoked comments following his arrest, including remembering the Lehigh Valley Tunnel, when he was being transported to Pennsylvania in July 2007.

“I remember this, it’s a long tunnel” Higgins said Cuadra commented while they drove through the tunnel.

A laptop computer seized from Harlow Cuadra’s Virginia Beach, Va., home had several pictures of Bryan Kocis saved to it, as well as photos of Cuadra that were sent to Kocis in the days leading up to Kocis’ Jan. 24, 2007, homicide, state Trooper Brian Murphy said. Murphy, a computer forensic expert, started testifying on Friday.

Three e-mail accounts set up by Kerekes or Cuadra and Cuadra’sMySpace Web page connected to the Internet using the same IP Address used by an e-mail address of the model who was supposed to meet with Kocis the day he was killed, Murphy testified.

IP addresses, Murphy explained, are unique identifiers associated with a computer any time it is connected to the Internet. No two IP addresses are ever alike at the same time. The e-mail address “dmbottompa@yahoo.com,” which was used by potential Kocis model “Danny Moilin” was used only to e-mail Kocis, except for one test e-mail, Murphy testified. Every Internet connection with dmbottompa@yahoo.com corresponded with the same IP Address as Cuadra’s other accounts, Murphy said, and often at the same time. Prosecutors allege Cuadra pretended to be “Moilin,” a fictional potential model from King of Prussia, to gain access to Kocis’ home.

D’Andrea said, during cross-examination, there was no absolute proof that it was Cuadra using the yahoo e-mail. In fact, D’Andrea said, it was likely that Kerekes had access to Cuadra’s accounts and could’ve sent the e-mails.

“There was nothing at all to prevent Joseph Kerekes from setting up dmbottom, was there?” D’Andrea asked

“No,” Murphy said.