Murder For Hire Trial Underway at Ventura County Superior Cour
Pacoima businessman Barry Carlisi wanted Tom MacAllister dead. So, Carlisi hired his pal who lived in a bus housed in an industrial space owned by Carlisi.
Carlisi even met with his friend and now hit man Ruben Szerlip twice at an IHop at Agoura Hills in June 2010 to discuss how to kidnap and kill MacAllister - Carlisi wanted MacAllister kidnapped , his body dismembered and cut into five pieces, the body parts frozen, put into a freezer that would be weighed down with chains and dumped in the ocean.
What Carlisi didn't know was that Szerlip was wearing a wire during those IHop meetings.
He had a change of heart about killing MacAllister. He called the District Attorney's Office using a fictitious name and was put through to an investigator who referred the case to the Ventura County Sheriff's detectives who launched an investigation.
That's what prosecutor Anne Spillner told jurors Tuesday during opening statements in Carlisi's trial in Courtroom 25.
The 65-year-old Szerlip who is in witness relocation program was given immunity in exchange for testifying against Carlisi, according to prosecutors.
Law Enforcement Search Carlisi's Property for Evidence
The 57-year-old Carlisi, who is not in custody, is on trial for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to kidnap, solicitation to commit murder and possession of marijuana for sale.
Sheriff's detectives executing search warrants on Carlisi's home in Bell City and vehicle to gather evidence for the conspiracy charges found a marijuana grow farm inside Carlisi's Bell City house.
Spillner told jurors that Carlisi bragged that he has been growing marijuana for 20 years.
"The defendant said he makes a lot of money on this. It can be hard work but it is worth it," Spillner said Carlisi is heard saying.
They also found other things including a freezer, plastic sheeting, nylon stockings, an ice pick, gloves, photos of MacAllister's house and firearms.
Also found was a so-called "Oh, Yeah" file with a photo of MacAllister's sister, e-mails from MacAllister, a Sap weapon, pepper spray and a receipt for a GPS tracking device that can be put underneath a vehicle to track it.
There was also a list of all the places where MacAllister shops, visits or banks along with his sister's address.
Spillner said Carlisi wanted MacAllister dead because he was going to a very "bitter and vicious" divorce and child custody dispute with Shannon Carlisi who is Carlisi's niece.
MacAllister testified Tuesday.
Carlisi Has Hired Three Attorneys to Represent Him at His Trial
For his part, Carlisi has hired three lawyers to represent him - two from Los Angeles John Hobson and Michael Levinsohn and one from New York City, Jennifer Lee Barringer.
Hobson told the juror this case is about "sex, lies and deception," saying that Szerlip had a "hidden agenda" and it wasn't to help MacAllister. Hobson said Szerlip was having a "secret sexual relationship;" with Carlisi's wife.
Detectives immediately focused on Carlisi during the investigation and never bothered to look at Szerlip story, said Hobson.
"The evidence will show that this is a one sided investigation that has a two-sided crime," Hobson said.
He described Szerlip as a "government agent" who has been put on a witness relocation program and has been given $30,000 for helping law enforcement.
Hobson said Szerlip has convictions for theft and domestic violence and his agreement of immunity with prosecutors doesn't require him to be truthful or to tell the complete story.
Szerlip was well-coached and prepared when he was working with law enforcement, Hobson said.
He said Szerlip was pushing Carlisi to get the crimes done.
Adding that his client sat with his brother Wayne Carlisi and told him that he feared Szerlip.
The Marijuana Grow Farm Charge
Carlisi's other attorney Levinsohn told jurors during opening statements that Carlisi was growing medical marijuana for medical purposes. Levinsohn said Carlisi and his associate are qualified medical patients who use marijuana and grow their own marijuana, Levinsoh
Levinsohn said Carlisi has never made any profit from growing marijuana and the defense will put an expert on the stand to testify about marijuana grow farms and medical marijuana laws.
The Victim Takes the Stand
MacAllister took the stand and testified about his marriage to Shannon Carlisi who was the granddaughter of Frank Carlisi. He and his wife Mary raised Shannon Carlisi.
Frank Carlisi is the father of Barry Carlisi, said MacAllister. He said Shannon Carlisi had two children by a previous marriage. He said he and Shannon Carlisi had a baby girl in December 2001.
MacAllister described his marriage to Shannon Carlisi and said they were separated and filed for divorce in 2005. He said the divorce was one of the "worst" he had ever experienced and said he had been married one other time.
MacAllister said he had a good relationship with Frank Carlisi up until the divorce and the fight for assets and custody of the couple's child began. He said Frank Carlisi , who is now deceased, was upset that he was never told about the divorce before it was filed.
He said Frank and Mary Carlisi helped the couple move from Oceanside to West Hills and gave them more than $500,000 as a down payment for a home at West Hills so Shannon Carlisi would be closer to her family.
MacAllister told jurors that Shannon Carlisi took his prized comic book collection that he began when he was a 9-year-old child. He said he was stuck with two mortgage payments on the Oceanside and West Hills houses because the Carlisis refuse to sign the legal papers so the houses can be sold.
MacAllister ended up losing the houses to foreclosures and later, Frank Carlisi bid on the foreclosed West Hills house.
Also he said Frank Carlisi filed a frivolous lawsuit against him in 2007, and it resulted in him using all his money for legal fees. He said he got his sister Linda who is a lawyer to give him free legal representation and in the end, he was representing himself.
In May 2010, MacAllister said he got a $16,000 for legal fees because of the malicious lawsuit they filed. He said he also got $42,000 in June 2010 to settle the divorce that included compensation for the comic books, a 1963 Buick and tools.
"Did you have to declare bankruptcy as a result of this divorce?" Spillner asked.
"Yes," he replied.
Under cross examination, MacAllister denied posting up fliers in February 2009 that stated, in part, "Frank Carlisi is dead."