Attorneys have one more chance to convince jurors in Platz murder case
March 19, 2003
The prosecution and defense rested Tuesday in the trial of Lisa Platz, who stands accused of murdering her 9-year-old daughter.
Monday, when closing arguments are expected to begin, will mark the sixth week of a trial that had FBI agents, forensic pathologists and family members of Rebbeca Aramburo and James Csucsai on the stand.
Platz, Csucsai and Rebbeca were inside a blue three-person tent when South Lake Tahoe police Officer Rob Heindl located a Nissan Maxima wanted in connection with a kidnapping in Washington.
Platz and Csucsai allegedly took Rebbeca at gunpoint from her stepmother. A FBI manhunt ensued and authorities kept watch at campgrounds because information indicated Csucsai, a former Air Force sergeant, liked to be outside.
The three were located at Campground by the Lake on Sept. 21, 2001, about 1 a.m. Police slashed the Nissan’s tires when someone ripped the tent’s bottom and scuttled toward the car. A high-powered rifle and handguns were found in the vehicle.
Csucsai did the bulk of the talking during negotiations. Police testified they heard whispering in the tent but could not decipher what was said. Officers said they heard a short scream at 3:56 a.m. and saw legs kicking the tent’s fabric. One officer said he heard the child whimper a little past 5 a.m.
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When SWAT team members cut a hole in the tent about 10:30 a.m. they found a bloody mess and Rebbeca’s body wrapped in blankets. Platz, who was bleeding from wrist cuts, was cuddling with her daughter. Csucsai was on his back in the center of the tent, bleeding from a neck wound. A double-edged military knife believed to be the murder weapon was above Platz’s head.
Public Defender Rick Meyer believes a mentally ill Csucsai kneeled on Rebbeca and slashed her throat from right to left. An autopsy found two small chest contusions on Rebbeca only after her skin was peeled back.
Meyer said he will present correspondence written by Csucsai during closing arguments Monday. One includes a confession letter, Meyer said.
Csucsai wrote a four page suicide note before hanging himself but the details of the letter have not been released to jurors.
District Attorney Gary Lacy contends Platz killed her daughter from behind to end a bitter custody dispute.
Using close-up pictures of the gash, forensic pathologists differed about the location of the attacker, with one saying front and another believing rear.
A jail employee said she heard Csucsai say he killed the child. A paramedic said Platz was flailing in an ambulance saying, “He hurt my baby. I want to die.”
According to Csucsai’s sister, Platz said she made arrangements for Rebbeca and said, “I’d rather see her dead than return her to (father Jose Aramburo).”
If convicted, Platz faces life in state prison.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Monday when the trial reconvenes at El Dorado County Superior Court at 8 a.m.
— E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org