But prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that two fellow teens — Jaiden Caruso and Kody Harlan — planned to rob and kill the 17-year-old. Caruso fired the fatal shot, and Harlan pulled cash from Minkler’s pockets, prosecutors argued.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci pointed to Caruso’s comments to police after the two were arrested.
“When I turn 18 this will all wash away,” Caruso said to an officer.
Pesci told jurors: “He’s someone who thinks this is all going to wash away. It’s not going to wash away. Matt’s not coming home.”
Immediately after the shooting, Caruso pulled out his phone, opened the Snapchat app and recorded video of Minkler’s body surrounded in blood.
“Bro,” he said as he panned over Minkler, “I just caught a body.”
Caruso’s lawyer, Mace Yampolsky, acknowledged to jurors that he fired the .357 revolver that killed Minkler during a June 2018 party in an abandon Henderson home, but the attorney blamed drugs and alcohol for the shooting.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating charges of first-degree murder and robbery with use of a deadly weapon against Caruso, now 17, and Harlan on Wednesday morning. Harlan, 18, also faces a felony charge of accessory to murder.
Harlan’s attorney, Ryan Helmick, conceded that he was guilty of accessory to murder, but pointed to his co-defendant for the more serious charges. Harlan was asleep on a couch in the living room at the time of the shooting, his lawyer argued.
“All these things that Kody did wrong and illegal don’t equal murder, nor do all these things equal robbery,” Helmick told jurors. “Only one kid is responsible for the death of Matthew Minkler.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Sarah Overly told jurors that Caruso and Harlan had planned a robbery, or “lick,” as they called it. She argued that Harlan had lied to police about having been friends with Minkler.
The prosecutor said Caruso and Harlan cleaned up the scene and hid Minkler’s body in a downstairs closet under a clear plastic tarp. On the door of the closet where his body lay, someone had spray-painted the words “F—- Matt” in black.
Rather than call police after Minkler was shot, Caruso and Harlan left the teen’s body in the house, took about $300 from his wallet and went shopping at Galleria at Sunset mall before attending a pool party at a nearby apartment complex.
“This is exactly how Kody Harlan left his friend, his homie: dead inside a closet,” Overly said.