LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The trial for two teens accused of killing a 17-year-old Las Vegas valley teen officially started at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday. Matthew Minkler was found dead inside a vacant home in Henderson last summer. Police say he was shot in the face.
At the start of opening arguments, the courtroom was filled with members of Minklers family. 8 News NOW Reporter Orko Mana noticed many of them tear up several times during the first day of court.
The people on trial for the June 2018 murder of Minkler are two of his so-called friends, Jaiden Caruso and Kody Harlan. During opening statements, prosecutors showed graphic videos and photos of Minkler’s body in the moments after he died.
Police said Minkler was with Caruso, Harlan and some other teens inside the vacant Henderson home doing drugs and drinking before they played a modified game of Russian Roulette. That’s when Caruso shot Minkler in the face, killing him, police said. According to detectives, after the shooting Harlan hid Minkler’s body in a closet.
Police believe the murder was motivated by a robbery to get more drugs from Minkler. According to prosecutors, there’s no question, Caruso and Harlan are guilty, but the defense says it wasn’t premeditated.
“Their immediate reaction from Jaiden Caruso and Kody Harlan was not to call 911, it was to do what he had been doing the entire day, which is to document it,” said Sarah Overly, the prosecuting attorney.
“This is just stupid kids, doing drugs, and playing with guns, which came out with a tragic result,” said Mace Yampolsky, Caruso’s defense attorney.
Following the murder, a car crash involving the suspects led police to check their vehicles. Crime scene analysts testified saying that they found a gun, live ammunition, along with Minkler’s wallet in the car.
During the trial, another teen who was also inside the vacant Henderson home, got emotional while speaking about what he saw that night.
Prosecutor: “What did you see happen to Matthew?”
Alaric Oliver, witness: “His body dropped.”
Prosecutor: “What did you do?”
Oliver: “I left. I ran, I was scared.”
Day two of the trial and testimony resumes Thursday.