Suspect’s dead boyfriend’s letters analyzed
March 13, 2003
Three witnesses were called during a day when the defense rested and the prosecution called one rebuttal witness in the murder trial of Lisa Platz.
Terrence Pascoe, a document specialist, was the first witness called during a shortened day of testimony at El Dorado County Superior Court. Pascoe briefly testified that handwriting from letters found in James Csucsai’s jail cell were by the same author.
Csucsai committed suicide in April, seven months after he and Platz were arrested on charges they kidnapped and murdered Platz’s 9-year-old daughter Rebbeca Aramburo inside a tent on Sept. 21, 2001.
Gregg McCrary, a former FBI agent with experience in behavioral criminology, was questioned by the defense about people admitting to crimes.
McCrary said it is common for people to partially confess to murders and refer to themselves in the third person.
On cross-examination by District Attorney Gary Lacy, McCrary said it is possible for people to confess to a crime they didn’t commit, possibly to protect a loved one.
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Public Defender Rick Meyer contends a deranged and depressed Csucsai killed Rebbeca with a military knife by kneeling on top of her. The prosecution believes Platz, bitter and angry about a custody battle, killed her daughter from behind.
Meyer referenced Csucsai’s letters in the past but did not go into specifics Wednesday. Three handwritten letters were found in Csucsai’s jail cell after the suicide. E-mails from Csucsai that he sent to family and friends before being caught at Campground by the Lake warned of ominous actions if he were cornered by authorities.
For the last witness of the morning, FBI Special Agent Chris Campion was called by the prosecution.
Campion, who negotiated the most with Csucsai, said he was not told that a police officer heard Rebbeca whimpering about 5 a.m. He said it would be noteworthy and would have remembered such a statement.
Retired South Lake Tahoe Officer Bob Camara, called by the defense, said he heard a sound like a child waking up from sleep a little past 5 a.m.
Both sides differ on the time of Rebbeca’s death.
Part of the prosecution’s theory involves Rebbeca dying at 3:56 a.m., when officers said they heard screaming and saw someone kicking the tent walls.
The jury was excused for the afternoon and will reconvene Monday at 10:30 a.m. The case is expected to go to the jury next week after closing arguments.
— E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org