Jason “Blu” Griffith’s lawyers asked a jury to consider the man’s state of mind on Dec. 12, 2010, the day he’s accused of killing his lover Debbie Flores Narvaez.
Deputy public defender Jeff Banks on Thursday suggested Griffith was acting in self-defense when the two fought at his North Las Vegas home. She was a violent stalker who had repeatedly harassed him, Banks contended.
Banks also asked the jury to separate Flores Narvaez’s death from what followed — that Griffith and his roommate dismembered and hid her body in concrete-filled tubs in an empty downtown home.
But prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said there was no evidence to support a self-defense claim. There is evidence of “self-preservation” as Griffith tried to hide his crime and maintain his life as a Cirque du Soleil performer along with his relationship with another woman, DiGiacomo said.
The two lawyers spoke to the jury during opening arguments in Griffith’s murder trial. A jury will decide whether Griffith is not guilty, or guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
DiGiacomo revealed evidence to the jury he said showed Griffith acted maliciously when he killed Flores Narvaez. She was found by Griffith’s roommate with a plastic bag over her head, which contradicts that Griffith acted in self-defense, DiGiacomo said.
Jurors also saw graphic autopsy photos of the dismembered and decomposed body of Flores Narvaez. She wasn’t found until weeks after she was reported missing.
Following opening arguments, jurors heard from seven witnesses who testified about the days following Flores Narvaez’s disappearance and the search effort by Las Vegas police and her family.
Flores Narvaez’s roommate and fellow Fantasy dancer Sonya Sonnenberg said Flores Narvaez on Dec. 12 had gone to Griffith’s North Las Vegas home to watch the television show “Dexter,” which was about a serial killer.
When she didn’t show up for a rehearsal, something she never missed, Sonnenberg said police were contacted.
Sonnenberg said she called Griffith seeking Flores Narvaez. Griffith told her Flores Narvaez had come to his home and left and he didn’t know where she was. Sonnenberg said Griffith was unhelpful and sounded like he wasn’t telling the truth.
The jury also heard from Flores Narvaez’s sister, Celeste Flores Narvaez, of Atlanta, who testified about leading the search efforts for her sister.
Celeste Flores Narvaez said when she contacted Griffith about her sister’s whereabouts, he showed little concern and it felt like he was lying about not knowing where she was.
The key witness in the case, Griffith’s former roommate, Louis Colombo, is expected to testify Friday.
DiGiacomo said police did not charge Colombo in the case because they needed his help in finding out what happened to Flores Narvaez and where her body was.
Colombo has told police he saw Griffith choking the 31-year-old Flores Narvaez and pulled him off her on Dec. 12, 2010. He told investigators that Flores Narvaez was OK when he left the home, but she was dead when he returned later that night. Colombo told police that when he came home, Griffith told him it was a “change-your-diaper moment.” Griffith told Colombo he had messed up, and Colombo found Flores Narvaez’s cold body.
Over the next few days, police said, Colombo helped Griffith hide the body, which was placed in a plastic tub filled with cement. The two men rented a U-Haul truck and used it to transport the tub to a friend’s Henderson apartment, but the friend told them to leave.
Griffith then got the keys to a downtown Las Vegas home that belonged to friends who were out of the country, figuring the body could be stored there for some time. But the tub started leaking when Colombo was moving it into the house in the 300 block of Bonanza Way, near Bonanza Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.
Days later, authorities said, Griffith and Colombo returned with a sledge hammer, a handsaw, two new plastic tubs and some cleaning supplies purchased from a Home Depot. Colombo told detectives they broke the body out of the concrete and Griffith then sawed off the legs from the body. The body parts, wrapped in plastic and placed in two separate concrete-filled tubs, then were sealed in a closet.
Both Griffith and Flores Narvaez were up and coming dancers in the Las Vegas performance community in 2010.
Griffith’s accomplishments included dancing for singer Toni Braxton on tour, being a New York Knicks City Dancer and signing a record deal. At the time of his arrest he had a major role in the Cirque du Soleil show “Love” at The Mirage.
Flores Narvaez was considered an ambitious and hardworking backup dancer for “Fantasy” who was developing a special segment for the show with pop singer Sisqó.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe