An olive jar and its contents suggesting a magic spell were the focal point Wednesday in the Christina Morris kidnapping trial.
Prosecutors were in their fifth day of presenting evidence in the case against the man accused in Morris’ disappearance. Enrique Arochi, 26, is charged with aggravated kidnapping.
A Plano crime scene investigator testified about evidence collected from Arochi’s Allen home after his arrest in December 2014. Jurors saw photographs of the jar containing a dark-colored liquid and learned that it had been found inside a shoe in Arochi’s bedroom. Prosecutors asked that the jar – kept in an evidence bag that noted which direction was up – be admitted as evidence.
Defense attorneys asked investigator Michelle Boubel to open the jar in court. But before she could get her evidence gloves on, the defense requested to be heard. Jurors were sent out of the courtroom.
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“What’s so gosh darn interesting about an olive bottle that I need to open right side up?” District Judge Mark Rusch asked.
Boubel explained that the jar contained an oily liquid that smelled of cinnamon and had torn pieces of paper immersed in it. The white paper had handwriting on it, but she said no one has been able to piece together exactly what it might have said.
Boubel testified that because she is bilingual and familiar with Hispanic culture, she did an online search for the Spanish words cinnamon, shoe, oil and paper. The results came back with hechizo, which has to do with magic spells, she told the judge.
The spells she found using those terms related to dominating people and having them under your feet or putting under a pillow to fall in love, Boubel testified.
“Witchcraft?” Rusch asked.
“Possibly, yes,” Boubel responded.
Though she is familiar with superstitions, Boubel said she had never encountered anything like this before. If she had to put it in context, she told the judge, it was more than a lucky nickel but not as serious as voodoo.
Prosecutors said Boubel was to be the only witness to testify about the jar, its contents and possible significance. At the time it was found, Arochi was already in custody and had an attorney. Police could not question him about what it meant.
Defense attorneys objected to admitting the olive jar and its contents as evidence in the criminal case. For one, attorney Steven Miears said, there was no handwriting analysis done to see whether what was on the bits of paper matched Arochi’s. Miears also questioned its relevance to the trial and the reliability of Boubel’s online search.
She acknowledged that she was no expert on hechizo.
After much discussion, Rusch said that having her testify to the contents without getting into their possible significance would create too much speculation among jurors.
“Weird doesn’t make it admissible,” Rusch said in granting the defense motion to keep jurors from learning any more about it.
Morris, 23, was last seen on surveillance video walking into a parking garage with Arochi at Plano’s Shops at Legacy just before 4 a.m. Aug. 30, 2014.
Also taking the stand Wednesday was Arochi’s girlfriend from two years ago. Arochi had texted Rand Aridi that he wasn’t feeling well and was planning to go to sleep that Friday night at the start of the Labor Day weekend. But evidence shows he went out drinking with several friends at Plano’s Shops at Legacy.
Aridi was asked Wednesday whether she was aware back then that he had gone out with other women that night. No, she testified.
Friends out with Arochi that night testified earlier in the trial that they didn’t know he had a girlfriend. Several said they thought he was romantically interested in Sabrina Boss, who had invited him out that night.
Aridi testified that she and Arochi went to the Shops at Legacy the following night, taking her car. He didn’t say anything about being there the night before, she said. Aridi also noticed he had several scrapes on his hands. Arochi told her he was injured while working on his car the previous night.
He told a couple of co-workers earlier that day that he got into a bar fight. Police believe he got the scrapes from Morris.
Jurors saw photographs that police took days later of Arochi’s injuries – scrapes, cuts and bruising on both forearms and the backs of his hands. One photo showed a scrape on his lower back.
Aridi told jurors she didn’t know that Arochi was a suspect until Plano detectives came to her house a week after Morris went missing. After that interview, she said she confronted Arochi. He told her he had wanted to go out with friends.
She didn’t hang out with those friends, she said, because “they were into stuff I’m not into.” She did not expand on her answer.
When she asked Arochi about being in the parking garage surveillance video with Morris, Arochi told Aridi he went to his car and Morris went to hers.
“He said he was blacked out … anything after that, he wasn’t sure,” Aridi testified.
Jurors also learned Wednesday that Arochi kept his Camaro extremely clean and that police had a GPS tracker placed on it in the early days of the investigation. Jurors also saw some of the trash taken each week from bins outside Arochi’s home in the search for evidence. Empty cleaning bottles, rags and receipts were among the items retrieved.
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