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Madsen murder case goes to the jury

By: Eric Laughlin, The Press Tribune
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For the third time, a Placer County jury has begun deliberating as to whether or not Caleb John Madsen murdered Christopher Worth with a single stab wound to the heart on a warm summer night in Granite Bay nearly five years ago. The 28-year-old Madsen has been jailed without bail since his July 14, 2005 arrest, five days after the stabbing homicide. First in March 2008, a jury deadlocked seven to five in favor of his guilt and then last spring the vote was 10 to 2 in favor of conviction. During closing arguments that took place this week in the latest trial, prosecutors William Marchi and Jeff Wilson pointed jurors to evidence they say can only suggest Madsen killed the 23-year-old Worth. One of their biggest arguments: An audio-taped statement Madsen made to investigators during an interrogation a day after the murder. Detective to Madsen: “We know you stabbed him, what we have to know is why. Why did it happen?” Madsen: “He’s a thief.” Madsen went on to say he suspected Worth was stealing from his family’s business, Scandia Family Fun Center, which employed Worth. Madsen then, according to detectives, put his hands out as if asking to be cuffed as he is heard on tape saying, “Are you going to take me away now?” “It’s not a classic confession,” Marchi said. “But the only reasonable conclusion is that that was what he was trying to do.” The veteran prosecutors also reiterated the fact that Madsen said he had owned and was missing a knife similar to the one found near Worth’s body, which was found in a field on Cavitt Stallman Road not far from the Madsen and Worth residences. The knife had no blood on it, but the prosecutors argued that the fresh blood could easily have been washed off with water. The prosecutors then went over a list of other evidence they said points to Madsen, such as him changing his story about being in Worth’s truck and about owning the knife similar to the one used in the killing. Their theory is that Madsen killed Worth while the two were at Madsen’s home, which they say can be explained by five dime-sized drops of Worth’s blood on the driveway. They also believe Madsen drove the body to the field to dump it. But when Madsen’s attorney Mary Beth Acton made her approach to address the jurors, the aggressive defense lawyer did something that could have been scripted for Hollywood. One by one, she placed 20 pint-sized bottles of tomato juice on a railing in front of the jury box, repeating a dozen or more times, “where’s the blood?” Acton used the red juice containers to remind jurors of the amount of blood a forensic pathologist had testified that Worth’s body had lost after the stabbing. She said there’s no way her client would have been able to clean up such a large amount of blood at his residence. “Empty all of those and try to clean it up,” she said. “It can’t happen.” Acton’s theory has been that Worth was killed by someone else who had been looking for him that night, perhaps involving a drug hit, since Worth was bouncing checks and had tested positive for cocaine metabolites being in his system. She argued that Worth was killed in the field after parking the truck himself and being chased on foot. She said that’s where the blood ended up. She accused investigators of conducting a lousy investigation once they had suspected Madsen, particularly when it came to gathering blood near where the body was found. “Once they immediately suspected Caleb, they put blinders on and didn’t carry out a proper investigation,” she said. Acton also discredited the prosecution’s argument that Madsen dragged Worth’s body from the truck to where the body was found, claiming that if that was the case it would have “looked like hamburger” after being dragged over all the rocks and gravel in its path. But when it was time to for the prosecution’s rebuttal of Acton’s theory, Wilson delivered an aggressive statement that drew dozens of “misconduct objections” from an uneasy looking Acton. “The truth has its enemies and they have their weapons: distraction and deception,” Wilson told the jury. He then said Acton’s theories were from the “land of confusion” and that her attacks on witnesses and investigators were a sign of desperation. “Why are you trying to put the cops on trial if you have such a solid case?” he argued. Wilson then responded to Acton’s big “where’s the blood?” argument. “Is it implausible to think he had the tools to get rid of the blood?” he said. “In the garage he had tarps, plastic, rolls of duct tape and blankets. He had everything he needed there.” Wilson even carried out his own Hollywood-style theatrics. When suggesting that the dime-sized blood drops found in the driveway lead to Madsen, he walked toward the defendant and dropped a path of actual dimes in his direction. Wilson also addressed the bizarre fashion in which Worth’s body was found, arms crossed and one of them propped up with a Y-shaped stick. “If it was a robbery or a drug hit, why would he be dragged over by the church and why would they take his clothes off?” he said. “And why would they pull brush in a really neat fashion over the body?” The jury was still deliberating as of press time. Jurors in the first trial discussed the case for five days before their deadlock was announced. If this third trial results in another deadlock, the prosecution could push the case ahead to a fourth trial, but an attorney not involved with the case said that is unlikely.