MAKAWAO, Hawaii (AP) — Four days into searching for her pregnant half-sister, Phaedra Wais trudged through a rugged, wet jungle on Maui to chase a new lead in the disappearance.
Following a locator ping from a cellphone, the 16-year-old found a skirt, shirt and bra stained with blood that belonged to her sister.
The discovery all but ended the family’s hopes that 27-year-old Carly “Charli” Scott was still alive. Later, at the same site, police found the missing woman’s jawbone, marking the latest twist in the case that led to a murder charge against Scott’s ex-boyfriend and the father of her unborn child.
Steven Capobianco is accused of killing Scott and burning her vehicle to cover up the crime. A Maui grand jury indicted him last week on charges of murder and arson, saying he intentionally or knowingly caused Scott’s death “in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner, manifesting exceptional depravity.” He has pleaded not guilty.
The finding of the jawbone helped authorities file the murder charge, a person familiar with the investigation said Wednesday. The person, who was not authorized to discuss the case, declined to reveal exactly how authorities linked the jawbone to Capobianco.
Scott’s family initially didn’t want to believe Capobianco was capable of the killing. Now they are convinced he was.
“She had no inkling — and that hurts,” Kimberlyn Scott, the mother of Carly Scott, said about her daughter’s feelings about Capobianco. “For me, personally, it took a while and I have only recently come to the conclusion that … that it was Steven.”
Scott went missing on Feb. 9, and her family began their search the next day with help from friends, neighbors and other volunteers who canvassed nearly 120 square miles of beach, brush and roadside. Her scorched vehicle was found on the third day of the search — a day before Phaedra found the clothes.
During the search, family members contacted friends and visited places where Carly might have been. They eventually worked their way around to Capobianco but weren’t fond of the idea of asking him for help.
They had never approved of him as her boyfriend, which led Carly Scott to become more withdrawn from relatives. She didn’t tell them on the night that she disappeared that she was going to see him, her mother said.
“There was a distance between us because, because of him,” Kimberlyn Scott said.
The day the clothes were found, Capobianco told a Hawaii TV reporter by phone that Scott had picked him up and driven him to his broken-down pickup truck on Hana Highway. After he fixed it, Scott was driving with her dog behind Capobianco on a two-lane road, he said, but he lost sight of her and figured she had arrived safely at her destination.
“I’m absolutely certain I saw her headlights in my rearview mirror until I got to Twin Falls and then I started speeding up (because) I drive a little faster than she does,” Capobianco said, adding that he didn’t think to make sure she’d gotten home OK until the next morning.
The story made family members and others suspicious.
Search organizer Jeff Simon said elements of the story didn’t jibe with details learned from other sources. Police, for example, hadn’t made note of any broken-down trucks along Hana Highway, even though it’s standard procedure to do so. And Scott’s dog was found about 12 miles to the east with no dirty paws or other indications that it had walked that far.
“The timeline of events that he had given the family didn’t make sense and changed a couple of times,” Simon said.
Despite the inconsistencies, Capobianco insisted to Hawaii News Now that he didn’t hurt Scott: “Absolutely not,” he told the station. He also said police told him that he had failed a lie detector test.
“I think they might have just said that as a tactic but I don’t really know,” Capobianco told the TV station. “I am walking around right now without handcuffs on.”
His public defender has not returned calls and did not talk to media after his client’s arraignment on Tuesday.
Kimberlyn Scott declined to discuss details of the case, saying it would be detrimental to justice and that authorities have not shared every piece of information they have with the grieving family.
She said she is now focused on finding her daughter’s body and making sure Capobianco never leaves prison.
“He wasted his life — I have no choice now but to pursue him to the ends of the Earth,” said Scott.
AP writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this report from Honolulu.
Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia
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