Murder trial focuses on suspect’s words
February 26, 2003
“I’m the bad guy here,” Lisa Platz told an emergency room nurse the day her daughter was found dead inside a tent in South Lake Tahoe.
Elizabeth “Betty” Wilson, a nurse at Barton Memorial Hospital, said she wrote down Platz’s comment because she thought it might be important.
Platz’s court-appointed attorney, Rick Meyer, countered that a police officer was in the room when Platz spoke.
“He asked me if I recorded it — I said no,” Wilson said Tuesday in El Dorado County Superior Court. “So I thought maybe I should, so I did.”
The trial of Platz, charged with the kidnap and murder of her 9-year-old daughter Rebbeca Aramburo, entered its third day of testimony Tuesday.
El Dorado County District Attorney Gary Lacy called SWAT members, a hostage negotiator and evidence technicians to the stand. Most of the testimony was related to statements made by Platz the day her daughter was killed at the Campground By The Lake on Sept. 21, 2001.
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Rebbeca had been living in Washington with her father before she was taken away in August by Platz and her boyfriend James Csucsai. Platz had lost custody of her child several months before the alleged kidnapping.
In September 2001, the FBI and police caught up with the trio at the campground. A nine-hour standoff ensued. It ended with police finding Rebbeca dead, Platz suffering from a loss of blood because of cuts on her wrists and Csucsai with a cut to his neck. Csucsai later committed suicide in jail.
In court Tuesday, Officer Scott Heng testified that Platz had asked him as she waited to be taken to the hospital if, “Jimmy was still alive.” Heng told her he was. She replied: “I guess he made it, too.”
Daniel Bears, a member of the SWAT team later testified that he heard Platz say, “He cut me. He cut me,” right after officers ripped the tent open.
South Lake Tahoe police evidence technician Theresa Height told the court that while photographing Platz’s injuries, she asked Platz to open her left hand. Platz replied, “I can’t, I cut it.”
Height also testified that hairs were found in Rebbeca’s clenched fists during an autopsy. Lacy, in his opening statement last week, said the hairs belonged to Platz or Rebbeca but the evidence has not been presented in court. Testimony also revealed that four knives and a knife sharpening kit were found in the tent.
Officer Rebecca Inman, who took over negotiating duties from FBI Agent Chris Campion at 5 a.m., said Csucsai did the talking with police, not Platz. During part of the standoff, which began about 1 a.m., Inman said she worked the phones, speaking with Csucsai’s buddy from the Air Force, his sister, Platz’s father and Rebbeca’s father. The phone calls were made to gain personal information about the three holed up in the tent in an effort to smooth out negotiations, Inman said.
Meyer stressed that Csucsai’s mental state was a topic of several of the calls.
“You didn’t care whether he was a bowler, did you?” Meyer asked. “Yes,” Inman said.
Throughout the day in court, Platz’s eyes followed her attorney Meyer, the lead public defender for El Dorado County, and she often whispered questions to him during breaks in the trial.
The prosecution is expected to finish presenting its case on Monday at 9 a.m. The trial is expected to last through March.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at email@example.com