Prosecutors wrapped up their case Monday on the ninth day of the trial of Enrique Arochi, accused of kidnapping a Plano woman who has not been seen since 2014.
Christina Morris was last seen on surveillance video walking with Arochi into a parking garage at the Shops at Legacy in Plano Aug. 30, 2014. Arochi is charged with aggravated kidnapping.
Arochi's attorneys began Monday's proceedings by cross examining Plano Det. Cathy Stamm, who testified Friday about interviews with Arochi. Stamm said she believed Morris borrowed Arochi's cell phone to text her boyfriend, Hunter Foster, the night she went missing.
Defense attorneys also asked Stamm if she thought a physical altercation took place in the parking garage. She replied that it was "probably."
Det. Robyn Busby testified about DNA evidence found on a small area at edge of Arochi's trunk. The defense argued that evidence was possibly contaminated because of how it was stored.
Busby also testified about toll booth records showing Arochi's whereabouts on the night of her disappearance.
The lead detective says they have received 471 tips on this case including one just received on Monday.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to declare a directed verdict of not guilty because the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but that request was denied.
The defense then called its first witness, a forensic dentist who studied pictures of bruises and wounds to Arochi's hand and arm and said they are not consistent with bite marks.
The defense plans to call one more witness Tuesday before beginning closing arguments. That means the jury could get the case later Tuesday, and in fact the judge ordered them to bring suitcases because they will be sequestered during deliberations.
Despite the defense's objections, the judge allowed the jury to see Arochi's Camaro in person Friday morning. Prosecutors said that was the only sure way for the jury to tell the size of the trunk and demonstrate that Morris could have fit inside it.
Prosecutors also wanted to show damage to a front fender that had since been hammered out. Plano officer Kevin Sasso, who works on accident reconstructions, testified that the damage would be consistent with hitting something soft, like a person's hips or buttocks. Arochi initially told police that he dented it by punching it in frustration when he hurt himself while rotating his tires.
The jury also heard testimony from a botanist talking about some long grasses that were found caught underneath Arochi's car when police seized it. The botanist said that one of the grasses is generally only found in wet, low-lying areas, usually near water, but the jury didn't hear that testimony because the defense argued it could be misleading without other evidence to back that up.
In the afternoon, Stamm testified about her interviews with Arochi where he said Morris was on the phone with someone "talking loudly" and that he was on the phone with his girlfriend, but cell phone records disproved that. Prosecutors played recordings of the interviews where Arochi says he did not walk Morris into the parking garage and later changed his story when surveillance photos showed them walking into the garage together.
In later recordings, Arochi broke down crying as police continued to push him for answers about the injuries to his hands and arms and said they didn't believe that he punched his car.
The jury also heard emotional testimony from Morris' stepmother Anna Morris, who cried as she told police that Christina would never have walked alone. She said the moment when Arochi said she walked off by herself that night is "when it felt like something was really, really wrong."
Investigators testified Thursday morning about possible blood evidence obtained from the trunk of Arochi's Camaro. The defense questioned the validity of the samples taken.
DNA expert Christina Capt, of the UNT Center for Human Identification, said she took DNA samples from Morris' parents and from a soda can in Morris' car and matched them to DNA found on a mat Arochi's car. Capt testified that the likelihood the DNA from the trunk mat is not Morris is 1 in 1.7 quintillion.
Capt also testified about hairs she tested that were pulled from a vacuum at Arochi's place of work. She said the hairs were not a match for Morris.
The defense argued the DNA could have been transferred through touch, but Capt testified the concentration of DNA in the trunk mat samples made it much more likely that it was from a bodily fluid.
Rand Aridi testified Wednesday that she was dating Arochi at the time of Morris' disappearance. According to text message records, Arochi told Aridi he had a headache the night Morris disappeared and was going to sleep. Arochi was actually with a group of friends, including Morris.
Aridi also said she and Arochi went to the Shops at Legacy for dinner the next day and he never told her he'd been there the night before. She said he had cuts on his knuckles and told her a tire fell on his hand while he was fixing it. Witnesses testified Tuesday that Arochi claimed the cuts came from a fight.
Prosecutors showed evidence a Plano police officer pulled from Arochi's trash that included black gorilla tape and empty bottles of cleaning products. The officer also found a Post-It note in the trash with the following bullet points written on it:
- Black shirt
- texts from 29-today's date
- bank bills
- cellular bills
Defense attorneys pointed out Arochi could have been making a list of evidence to gather to defend himself and show his innocence.
Defense attorneys questioned Plano Det. Aaron Benzick Tuesday, who laid out his theory that Morris was not kidnapped in the parking garage, but rather after she willingly got into Arochi's Camaro. He testified something happened after they left that made Morris change her mind about being in Arochi's car and he believes that's when things went wrong.
Prosecutors also heard testimony from Foster, who discussed text messages between the two the night she went missing. Foster struck an immunity agreement for his testimony in exchange for a suspended sentence on a drug charge. He said he was never near Morris the night she disappeared.
Arochi's former co-workers at Sprint testified Tuesday, describing Arochi's strange behavior the day after Morris disappeared.
"He had a bite mark on his arm," one former co-worker, Jacob Talamontes, told NBC 5. "He told me his rim fell on him while he was changing a tire. He told two other co-workers that he got into a fight at the Shops at Legacy."
Talamontes was reprimanded by the judge Wednesday for speaking with the media.
On Monday, attorneys looked at the cell phone records of Arochi and Foster.
Days 1 and 2
Friends who were with Morris and Arochi the night Morris went missing testified last week that they didn't recall seeing cuts on Arochi's hands or damage to his car, both of which appeared the next day.
NBC 5's Chris Jose, Alice Barr and Tyler Sieswerda contributed to this report.