By Kalen Abe and Lauren Smith
RIVERSIDE – A murder trial reconvened here in Riverside County Superior Court Wednesday, where a jury heard that on July 10, 2019, Timothy Condoluci allegedly murdered his brother, 41-year-old Michael Condoluci, by stabbing him behind their family’s home in Green Acres, a community located just east of Hemet.
Allegedly, the defendant confronted the victim, saying he intended to kill him. The defendant then brandished a hunting knife, stabbed the knife in the victim’s right armpit, and fled the scene. The victim managed to stumble to the front porch of the house, where he collapsed.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Espinoza, patrol deputies were called to the location to investigate reports of an assault. A deputy who had worked as an emergency medical technician, Garrett Ennis, was the first to reach the location in response to a 911 call.
According to court papers, Ennis found the victim bleeding profusely and losing consciousness. He managed to stabilize the victim, who was taken to Menifee Valley Hospital, then transferred to the Riverside University Medical Center. However, Michael W. Condoluci went into cardiac arrest and died four hours later on the operating table.
After a K9 unit picked up defendant Condoluci’s trail, the defendant was located and taken into custody without incident near the house. The defendant has been in custody at the Robert Presley
Detention Center since July 11, 2019, more than a year.
According to a trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Josh DeGonia, the two brothers had been at odds on numerous occasions, and family members consistently pointed to the defendant as the aggressor. Allegedly, three months prior to the deadly attack, defendant Condoluci had threatened to stab his brother in the neck, prompting the victim and his mother to file a restraining order against him.
Part of this restraining order that she signed states, “Timothy was mentally unstable. Most of the abuse was verbal until now. He is unpredictable and I don’t know what he’ll do. I can’t have him in the house anymore.”
According to the brief, the defendant made several spontaneous statements concerning the need to defend himself, even suggesting that his older brother had been armed with a handgun, which was never corroborated.
This trial brief corroborated one of the People’s earlier witnesses, a Riverside county investigator who was recalled to the stand.
This witness interviewed the defendant’s and the victim’s mother in 2019, and stated that their mother called Michael “responsible,” as he “assisted with the household & paying bills, while Timothy did not (contribute) to the household.” This interview helped shed light on the brothers’ animosity, which was “due to a stolen vehicle that occurred ten years prior.”
Additionally, it was revealed that the defendant often instigated fights with Michael and had threatened Michael with knives in the past. In this conversation, their mother characterized the defendant as “problematic.”
However, when their mother testified, one of the first things she stated on the record was that her son Michael “was a bully, he was mean, he was a bad person.” She further stated that she “was pressured” by Michael into filing this restraining order and that she did it so Michael would stop “pestering her about it.”
Michael Condoluci’s housemate and friend of over 20 years testified next. In an emotional testimony, this witness stated that on the night of Michael’s death, he heard a commotion outside and took a flashlight to investigate.
Once outside, he heard “skin on skin contact” and when he turned the corner outside the mobile home, he saw Timothy Condoluci running away from his brother Michael, who was “holding his chest” and “squirting blood.”
Michael’s friend further testified that as Timothy was running away, Michael stated “my brother stabbed me.” Immediately he grabbed Michael and took him to the kitchen to try to stop the bleeding while his son called for an ambulance.
Under cross-examination, defense counsel Micallef started by questioning Michael’s housemates’ relationship with Timothy. In his earlier testimony, the witness stated that he and Timothy were not close, they did not interact often, and he has “no ill will” toward the defendant.
The only problems between himself and Timothy regarded how Timothy treated his children. He testified that the defendant would yell at and cuss out his three children, and that he suspected Timothy of breaking the windshield of a ‘63 Chevy he was trying to sell. The witness also stated he never verbally or physically threatened Timothy Condoluci.
Micallef challenged that earlier testimony by confronting the decedent Michael’s friend with a supposed situation in which he told Michael he thought Timothy was responsible for the broken windshield and he was upset about how Timothy treated his children.
The public defender read a statement that the witness supposedly said to Timothy, “…motherf***er you put a hole in my windshield and I’m going to put a hole in your head.”
Michael’s friend adamantly denied making that statement and further emphasized that his only problem with Timothy regarded his behavior toward his children.
On Monday, Michael’s father testified to the defendant’s history of fighting, specifically speaking about a fight with his son, stating that “he just attacked me…I grabbed a 1×2 and I smacked his hand with it. I was hoping I would break his hand to be honest with you. He just looked at me with these scary eyes…he dropped [the knife he was holding]…he kicked the stick away from me and started hitting me in the back and he took the stick around my throat and threw me on the ground and was choking me…”
The defendant’s father further testified that after this altercation occurred, he warned his wife that Timothy is “really bad, needs help and might stab somebody because he pulls knives on people.”
Despite this incident between father and son, Timothy’s father stated that “he’s a good kid…he just got messed up on drugs.”
Immediately after this statement, the prosecution and defense met in chambers for a private meeting. When they came back, the judge advised the father to answer all questions as directly as possible. He recognized that this situation must be difficult for the witness, but it will be over quicker if he answers succinctly.
Timothy’s father responded, “It kills me you know. I wasn’t ready for this. I really wasn’t. You guys dragged me out of Colorado to come down here.”
After the judge apologized, the People and defense decided they did not need to ask him any more questions.
At the conclusion of the father’s testimony, he pleaded with the judge asking, “Can I give my son a hug?”
The judge said no “for two reasons. One, it’s not appropriatem” to which Timothy’s dad responded that “it is appropriate, he’s my son”; and “second, the COVID virus is rampant. This time there are no hugs for anybody.”
After lunch, the defense requested a mistrial.
Apparently, during the time when the People and the defense were meeting in the judges’ chambers, Timothy and his father engaged in “open dialogue” before the jurors.
Defense Attorney Micallef argued that a mistrial should be granted because “unfortunately the jury has been exposed to testimony in regards to Mr. Condoluci’s mental health…custody status…drug convictions or arrests… [and his] addiction to methamphetamine or usage of methamphetamine.”
He continued to say that “during the course of the sidebar…out of our presence, I have been advised that the witness …was having an open dialogue with Timothy Condoluci while he was at counsel table and [his father] was making statements in regards to potential factual aspects of this case, as well as statements that may have caused the jury to be sympathetic to [Timothy’s father] as he potentially has an illness he will be dying from within a certain period of time.”
Micallef concluded his argument by stating that “unfortunately based on the nature of all of these different items and the cumulative nature of them I don’t know that a jury is going to be able to get an admonition or instruction that is going to cure the defect of all of these things. I believe that Mr. Condoluci would be prejudiced in this case as a result of the combination of these things that we experienced here today. It is for that reason that, with a heavy heart, I believe I am ethically obligated to ask the court to consider granting a mistrial.”
District Attorney Degonia argued, “Many of these things go to the heart of the defense’s case” and that the jury could instead be advised to ignore those statements made by Timothy Condoluci’s father.
Agreeing with the defense, the court denied the mistrial motion and simply admonished the jury, saying, “I assume all of you realize that the outbursts by [Timothy’s father] are not evidence and not admissible. These things you should not consider and shouldn’t enter your decision at all. Part of your decision cannot be based on bias, sympathy, prejudice or public opinion.”
He then laughed and says Timothy’s father is “not an expert” on self-defense. His “speculation for reasons of [Timothy’s] conduct are not admissible… he is obviously an upset father. I don’t think I have to stress it too much.”
During Wednesday’s trial, Timothy finally took the stand and recounted the events that led to his brother’s murder. He stated, “I wasn’t threatening anything, the knife was my cutlery for eating.”
He also claimed Michael’s housemate threatened him by saying “you put a hole in my windshield, I’ll put a hole in your head.”
On the night of July 10, 2019, Timothy testified that Michael’s housemate threatened him so he ran into the trailer to try and make a phone call because he felt his life was in danger, stating, “I thought there was a guy threatening me with a gun and my brother was outside mad at me.”
However, after a power outage in the trailer, Timothy chose to risk venturing outside to check on the power cord, though he was afraid of Michael’s friend, “a big man [who] could knock down the door.”
Outside, after finding the power cord attached, Timothy alleged that Michael approached him while holding an unopened 24 oz can of beer. Timothy stated, “the beer concerned me, because it was a blunt object,” implying that the beer can could be used as a weapon.
After showing Michael that he was armed by shining a flashlight on his weapon, Timothy claimed that, without warning, Michael’s friend came running up behind Michael, holding a bat. At this time, Timothy stated that he felt “frightened, scared, (and) threatened.”
During Timothy’s testimony, prosecutor DeGonia made multiple objections based on hearsay and speculation.
This case is expected to resume on Tuesday August 25, 2020, at 9 a.m.
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