83°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Police: Suspect shot Las Vegas teen in modified ‘Russian roulette’

Updated June 13, 2018 - 7:50 pm

Matthew Minkler died surrounded by people he believed were his friends.

But after what suspects described as a modified game of Russian roulette turned deadly Friday morning, his friends ran, police said, leaving the Las Vegas teen to bleed out on the kitchen floor of an abandoned Henderson house at 2736 Cool Lilac Ave. He was 17.

Matthew’s family does not believe that Russian roulette played a part in his death.

“We know this wasn’t Russian roulette,” his mother, Jamie Shanklin, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday. “My kid was shot in the chin, like they were shutting him up.”

According to police documents, Jaiden Caruso, 16, and Kody Harlan, 17, returned to the house shortly afterward, but only to clean up the scene and hide the body inside a downstairs closet under a plastic sheet. Harlan is accused of dragging the body into the closet.

“They never called 911,” detectives wrote in the pair’s probable cause arrest report. “They never attempted to render aid.”

Caruso and Harlan have been charged as adults in Matthew’s death. Caruso is facing charges of murder with a deadly weapon and robbery, while Harlan faces charges of accessory to murder after the fact, destroying evidence and robbery. They are being held at the Clark County Detention Center.

Police on Tuesday identified Caruso’s co-defendant as Kody Harlen, but court documents show that he has been booked under the last name “Harlan.”

Deadly discovery

The suspects did not report the shooting to police. It was only after a short vehicle pursuit Friday evening near East Sunset Road and Green Valley Parkway that Henderson police learned of the shooting and later found Matthew’s body.

Police said they tried to pull over a stolen Mercedes being driven recklessly by Harlan, but when the car blew through a red light and crashed into landscaping, several juveniles inside it got out and ran.

Once in custody, Harlan told police that “he had been present during a murder, which took place earlier in the day,” his arrest report states. He then led officers to the abandoned 3,717-square-foot house on Cool Lilac Avenue, which sits on the edge of a well-kept neighborhood near South Eastern Avenue.

It remained unclear Wednesday how the teens knew the house was empty.

Harlan told police that Matthew was shot in the face by Caruso after he had pulled out a .375-caliber revolver for a game of Russian roulette, arrest documents say.

Russian roulette is known as a deadly game of loading a single bullet into a revolver, spinning the cylinder and then pulling the trigger while aiming the gun at yourself.

Friday’s version was different, according to Harlan. He told police that Caruso “never allowed the other participants to handle the firearm or pull the trigger themselves,” according to the documents.

But Matthew’s mother believes there’s another reason for her son’s death.

“Jaiden had a ‘beef’ with my son. Jaiden never told him. He pretended they were friends,” Shanklin said, raising her voice. “He would have never gotten into the car with them if he knew.”

According to the report, the words “F—- Matt” had been spray-painted onto the closet door where Matthew was found. Detectives described that detail in the report as a “heinous” act.

Henderson officer Scott Williams reflected on the case Wednesday afternoon, telling the Review-Journal that Matthew’s killing “shocked the conscience” of the entire Police Department.

“This one will stick with you,” he said, “because it’s so sinister.”

‘Caught a body’

In a warranted search of Caruso’s cellphone, the report said, investigators found several “self-made videos” at the scene. In these videos, according to the reports, Caruso speaks into the camera, saying, “Bro, I just caught a body.”

“We know about the Snapchats that Jaiden posted,” Shanklin said Wednesday.

In one video, a voice can be heard in the background asking what to do with Matthew’s body. Caruso said nothing, the report said, and “calmly walks to the kitchen sink, wets his hands and begins to clean his shoes.”

After the shooting, Caruso replaced those shoes using about $300 taken from Matthew’s wallet, according to the arresting documents. The rest of the cash was spent on drugs, police said.

“He cared more about his shoes,” Shanklin said of Caruso, breathing heavily as she cried. The money the suspects had allegedly taken from Matthew was cash he had gotten for his birthday, she said.

Inside the stolen Mercedes, detectives found the wallet and the revolver they suspect was used in the shooting.

When presented with this evidence, Caruso “broke down and admitted his involvement,” the report said. He claimed that the shooting was accidental and that he was high on Xanax at the time.

It is not clear how long the house has been abandoned, but county property records show that it was sold in January for $390,000 to a limited liability company. Shanklin said that in the days since Matthew’s death, her son’s other friends have shown her photos of Harlan in the backyard of the Cool Lilac house.

“We know the house has been empty since at least April,” Shanklin said. “There’s still furniture inside.”

Williams confirmed that as of Wednesday, investigators were still working to identify and locate several other witnesses who fled the scene Friday.

“That’s one of the most concerning things about this whole case. Why have these kids not told their parents?” he said. “Having them come forward is not only helpful for us, but these kids witnessed this traumatic event. They need counseling to get that off their chests.”

He asks that anyone who witnessed the shooting call the Police Department at 702-267-4911 or Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 to remain anonymous.

A kind soul

While at a mortuary Wednesday afternoon, Shanklin told the Review-Journal, “I’ve been mourning for days, and now I feel my anger.”

“My baby never came home,” she said.

Shanklin said that on Matthew’s way out of the house Friday, he told his family, ‘Tell mom I love her.”

Matthew had just finished his junior year at Silverado High School and was set to graduate next school year.

“He was a good kid and had a kind soul,” Shanklin said. “He didn’t even know how much he touched the world.”

Matthew leaves behind his parents, four sisters and three nieces.

A GoFundMe account has been created to assist with his funeral costs.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
CCSD police on the arrest of Deamonte Warren - VIDEO
CCSD police arrested Chaparral High School custodian Deamonte Warren on Friday on three counts of a school employee having sex with a student and an additional count of providing alcohol to a minor. (Courtesy CCSD Police)
Woman charged with sex trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip (Michael Quine)
Gigi Mitchell faces seven felony charges including sex trafficking and child abuse for bringing an 11-year-old girl to the Las Vegas Strip to work as a prostitute.
Bel Air Drive Officer Involved Shooting Presser - Video
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly goes over the officer-involved shooting on Bel Air Drive.
Former Las Vegas police officer get 25 life sentences for sexually abusing child
Former Las Vegas Police officer Bret Theil was sentences to 25 consecutive life sentences at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, May 15, 2019, for sexually abusing a child over a decade. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Man pushed off bus in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police arrested 25-year-old Cadesha Bishop on May 6, after she allegedly pushed Serge Fournier, 74, off of a parked bus near Fremont Street and 13th Street about 4:50 p.m. March 21.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
$1 million bail set for mother charged with drowning 2-year-old daughter
The 44-year-old mother who police say drowned her 2-year-old daughter in a bathtub in a northeast Las Vegas apartment on Saturday made her first court appearance on Tuesday, May 14th.
Officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child appears in court
Matthew James Terry, a Las Vegas police officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child, appears in court Monday morning, May 13, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seek hit-and-run driver
A motorcycle officer pulled over a Mercedes SUV, and after the officer came to a stop, it shifted into reverse, intentionally hitting the officer.
Thedrick Andres becomes Henderson Police Department acting chief
Henderson Police Department Acting Chief Thedrick Andres speaks about his goals in his new position at the Henderson Police headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2 dead, 1 wounded after east valley neighborhood shooting
One man and one woman are dead and another man wounded after a shooting Thursday afternoon in an east valley neighborhood.
Bail denied for former police detective charged with murder
Bail was denied Tuesday for former Metropolitan Police Department detective, Pamela Rene Bordeaux who is accused of fatally shooting her daughter’s ex-husband during supervised visitation with his child.
Third suspect in death of California doctor appears in court
The third and final suspect in the killing of a California doctor, Jon Kennison, 27, appears in court Friday, April 19, 2019. Kennison, Kelsey Nichole Turner, a former model, and Diana Pena, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Richard Cleaves of Pahrump arrested in burglary on former Binion property
Updated press release regarding burglary on a former Binion property: Richard Cleaves, 56 of Pahrump, has been arrested on a warrant for burglary, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and destruction of property. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Judge denies bail for suspect charged in the killing of California doctor
Diana Pena, one of three people charged in the killing of a California doctor, is being held without bail after her fingerprints were found on the car where Dr. Thomas Burchard's body was discovered.
Ex-NFL player and girlfriend held without bail in child’s death
Former professional football player Cierre Wood and his girlfriend, Amy Taylor, face charges of murder and child abuse in the death of Taylor's 5-year-old daughter. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP identifies man who was shot by trooper on Mount Charleston
Nevada Highway Patrol updates the media on the April 2, 2019 officer involved shooting on Mount Charleston. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas court grants '90 Day Fiancé' defendant continuance
"90 Day Fiance" stars Colt Johnson and his mother Debra left the Las Vegas Justice Center Thursday, after the court granted Larissa dos Santos Lima a continuance in her misdemeanor case, in which she is accused of domestic violence against Colt. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Details released on in-custody death
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank addresses media about details of an in-custody death at Clark County Detention Center on March 31. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man hurt in shooting with Nevada troopers at Mount Charleston
A man was injured in a shooting involving Nevada Highway Patrol troopers Tuesday afternoon at Mount Charleston on state Route 157 near Echo Trail. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officer wounds inmate during escape attempt
An officer fired on an inmate who stole a vehicle and tried to flee, ramming several cars and leading officers on a chase until he ran out of gas.
Man fatally shot during a 'beer skip'
A store clerk is being questioned after a man was fatally shot during a robbery at a gas station Friday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Las Vegas police give details on fatal shooting
Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer gives a briefing on a fatal shooting near downtown Las Vegas that occurred on March 27, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas community pays tribute to boy killed by car
The community joined friends and family at Wilbur & Theresa Faiss Park, Wednesday evening, to remember the boy who was struck and killed by a car crossing South Fort Apache Road from Faiss Park, near West Maule Avenue, on Monday. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Person of Interest Found For Downtown Las Vegas Bar - Video
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seeking help to find a person of interest in a potential homicide case at a bar in downtown Las Vegas.
Metro briefs media on OIS near downtown Las Vegas
Police address media about officer-involved shooting that started on Maryland and Vegas Valley, and concluded downtown, near the Golden Nugget.
Update on OIS at Vegas Valley and Maryland
The incident began at the Steinberg Diagnostic Medical parking lot and ended downtown.
Amy And Spencer Powell Recount Hit And Run
Amy Powell and her son Spencer recount the day Spencer was hit by a truck while riding his bike. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah arrested in Amarillo, TX
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah was arrested in Amarillo, TX on a Nye County warrant for open murder, burglary, obtaining money under false pretense, use of credit card w/o owner consent, and destruction of evidence. (Nye County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Metro Presser For OIS 6 (Full)
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Metro Presser For OIS 6
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Domestic disturbance call ends in suicide
A man died by suicide after police tried negotiating with him outside of his ex-girlfriend’s home on March 13. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by Las Vegas police
A 20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by a Las Vegas officer on Saturday night is also accused of burglarizing a Boys & Girls Club minutes before the shooting.
Commercial Robbery On 3000 Block Of North Las Vegas Blvd - VIDEO
On February 19th, 2019, at approximately 10:23 am, a robbery occurred to a business located on the 3000 block of North Las Vegas Boulevard. The pictured suspect entered the business, approached the counter and pointed a firearm at the victim demanding money. The victim complied and the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported.
THE LATEST