Defense disputes victim’s stories
The attorney for a girl accused of severely beating a teen near Independence Pass attacked the victim’s conflicting accounts, calling them “lacking in credibility” during an opening statement Wednesday.Arnie Mordkin, attorney for suspect Cinthia Romero, pointed out repeatedly Wednesday that the victim initially told police she was attacked by two men in their 20s, one white and one Latino, and did not mention Romero’s name until three days after the assault.Romero, 17, is being tried as an adult in the attack on the 16-year-old girl who police say had been living with Romero, Romero’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s mother. Romero is charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.The victim, who is not being identified because she is a minor, ran away from her foster home in Bakersfield, Calif., to accompany Romero to Aspen. Police say Romero, who also ran away from her own home in Bakersfield and reportedly was on the national runaway database, planned to meet up with a 17-year-old boy she met on the Internet, Jaime Castro. They all ended up living, according to police, at the mother’s Truscott Place home near the Aspen Golf Course.Things allegedly turned sour when the victim, feeling left out after a romance blossomed between Romero and Castro, decided to turn herself in to authorities so she could be sent back to California without having to come up with the money for a bus ticket.According to prosecutor Andrew Heyl, Romero and Castro decided to kill the victim because they were afraid she would jeopardize Romero’s freedom if she turned herself in to police.Prosecutors say Romero and Castro drove the victim up Independence Pass in a Chevy Blazer that Castro’s mother owned. The plan, authorities say, was to beat her to death with a golf club taken from a bag of found clubs at the mother’s home.On Wednesday the jury heard chilling audiotapes of interviews between police officials and the victim, recounting the trip up the pass, including at least two stops along the way before the attack occurred.At a third and final stop, according to the prosecution, Romero and Castro pulled the victim from the car and took turns beating her with the golf club.The attack was interrupted by the arrival of a Buena Vista couple driving back home from a funeral in Aspen. The couple took the injured girl back to town.In interviews, the victim told police she had been living on the streets and in the parks of Aspen for a week or two, and that two men had picked her up in a park and taken her for a ride up Independence Pass after offering to help her get back to California.Over the course of two days, the victim wove an elaborate, highly detailed story about the two men, including descriptions of their attire, tattoos they had on their arms, the sequence of events leading to the beating, and even a dream that came to her while in the hospital in which the men told her they were from California.Her voice was weak and, at times, almost inaudible in the earliest interview with Aspen police officer George Kremer. But in later interviews with Pitkin County Investigator Ron Ryan she spoke more clearly and forcefully, but stuck with the story of the two male attackers.It was during a final interview, on Oct. 12, the third day after the attack, that she changed her story and identified Romero and Castro as her real attackers, according to police, prompting a nationwide manhunt that led to their capture in Virginia in late December.The jury is expected to hear and see that final interview, on audio tape and a video cassette, when the trial resumes today.The victim said she had lied at first because she “didn’t want to be a snitch,” according to news accounts at the time. During the trial this week, she added that she was “scared” during the time immediately after the assault and simply wanted police to stop questioning her.Castro pleaded guilty last June to one count of first-degree assault and is serving time in a juvenile detention facility. He is scheduled to appear in court to testify against Romero, an arrangement Mordkin attacked in court Wednesday.The defense attorney argued that Castro had maintained his innocence “until he got a deal” that reduced the time he would spend in prison in return for his testimony against Romero.Mordkin also attacked the victim’s credibility. He began his cross-examination of her by noting that she told police a bear had attacked her one night near the Castro home at Truscott Place. She answered that, yes, she had been attacked by a bear, twice.”Not four times, as you told police?” Mordkin said, getting an almost inaudible “no” in response.He also pointed out that the victim had been convicted in California on charges of grand theft auto, a felony, on a plea deal she said she accepted in order to protect the true thief.”So you lied to the judge?” Mordkin said.”Yes,” she replied.Mordkin’s cross-examination of the victim, which is linked to the continuation of the audio taped interviews, will resume at a later point in the trial, Mordkin said Wednesday.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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