A North Hollywood man and his girlfriend were ordered Monday to stand trial on charges they stabbed to death the man’s mother and a former girlfriend at Universal CityWalk on Mother’s Day.
Beverly Hills Municipal Judge Elden S. Fox bound over Paul Carasi, 30, and his girlfriend Donna Kay Lee, 44, for trial in the deaths of Carasi’s mother, Doris Carasi, and his ex-girlfriend Sonia Salinas.
“There was more than ample evidence to bind them both over for trial,” Deputy Dist. Atty. John Gilligan said after Fox’s ruling. “None of the stories they tell are even remotely consistent with any of the physical evidence.”
Gilligan said it may be another two months after the couple’s Sept. 5 arraignment date in Santa Monica Superior Court before a decision is made by his office whether to seek the death penalty against Carasi and Lee, both of whom face the special circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders and could soon face an additional allegation of lying in wait and ambushing the women.
Attorneys for Lee and Carasi said that they were not surprised by Fox’s decision, but that they think prosecutors still fall far short of proving their case. Specifically, they pointed out that during the hearing little testimony was given on whose blood was found at the crime scenes.
“They still have a lot of questions that remain unanswered,” said Donald A. Ainslie, Carasi’s attorney. “It makes me believe the case is not as open-and-shut as they would like to think.”
Carasi has said that he feigned unconsciousness while the two women were attacked and when he opened his eyes he found them lying in a pool of blood. He said he got blood on himself because he slipped and fell in it and because he touched the bodies to see if the women were still alive.
But a blood expert testified Monday that blood found on Carasi’s clothing was inconsistent with his story. The expert, Elizabeth M. Devine, a senior criminalist with the Sheriff’s Department, stated that a bloody handprint found on Carasi’s shirt would have been nearly impossible for Carasi to make himself and was most likely left by someone with a bleeding hand.
Devine also testified that the handprint and other blood spatters could have ended up on clothes during a struggle. She also revealed that numerous cuts found on Carasi’s jacket appeared to have been made by a knife and not from normal wear and tear.
Under cross examination, Devine stated there was no way to determine the exact time the cuts were made to the jacket and that it is possible that clothing could be spattered with blood if somebody grabbed a bleeding victim, as Carasi contends he did with his mother.
A California Highway Patrol officer found Lee with a slashed stomach just minutes after the attack near a call box off the Hollywood Freeway near the amusement area. She has maintained that she was stabbed during a robbery attempt after pulling off the highway because she felt sick.
But earlier in the preliminary hearing, a highway patrol officer testified that after Lee was taken by ambulance to a hospital, he and his partner found bloody gloves, a blood-soaked washcloth and other blood-stained evidence just off the freeway where Lee was discovered.
Prosecutors have alleged that Lee--bleeding from a stomach wound she suffered during a violent struggle with Salinas--pulled to the side of the road to dump an array of bloody evidence linking her to the victims, then was forced to call authorities for help because she accidentally locked herself out of her car.
Gilligan pointed to a cellular phone and purse found in Lee’s car as proof that she was not the victim of a robbery as she has contended.
A CityWalk restaurant hostess had previously placed Lee in the vicinity of the killings when she testified that she saw Lee walk by her restaurant four times--sometimes looking angry--on the night of the killings. Parking stubs also place Lee at CityWalk at least two times before the slayings, prosecutors contend.
But despite the evidence against Lee, her attorney, Martin Zaehringer, said Friday that he is continuing to gather evidence to show his client was abducted on the night of the killings.
“My contention remains that Donna Lee is an innocent victim who is lucky to be alive,” said Zaehringer.
As he left the courthouse Monday, however, Gilligan described Lee’s robbery story as “preposterous” and went into further detail of the victims’ injuries.
“These people were butchered,” Gilligan said. “Both their throats were slashed all the way to the spinal cord. . . . It was a complete overkill.”