After five days of testimony, prosecutors and defense counsel rested their cases Friday in the trial of suspected serial rapist Toby Eugene Griego, who chose not to testify.
Griego, 42, is being tried on 27 charges in connection with a string of home-invasion robberies, sexual assaults, kidnappings and an attempted sexual assault last year. Prosecutors allege he attacked four victims on Jan. 27, April 25, May 27 and July 2.
The trial will resume Monday morning at 9 a.m. with closing statements, after which the 12-person jury will go into deliberation.
The state presented more than 350 exhibits this week and called 30 witnesses, including the four victims, five Billings police detectives and two of Griego’s ex-girlfriends.
All four victims testified they woke to a man in their bedrooms. They all said they were bound, gagged and blindfolded. One of the women, who was attacked April 25, testified she was able to fight off her attacker. The other three victims said they were raped repeatedly with foreign objects and forced to shower or bathe.
The victims in the last two attacks said they were taken to ATMs at banks in Billings and forced to make transactions and then taken back to their homes and raped again.
After the state rested its case Friday, Regional Deputy Public Defender David Duke said Griego is aware of his right to testify and has decided not to do so. Duke and Griego’s second attorney, J. Thomas Bartleson of the major-crimes unit of the Office of the State Public Defender, did not call any witnesses and rested their case at about 3 p.m.
The state, represented by Chief Deputy Yellowstone County attorneys Rod Souza and Juli M. Pierce, will have 70 minutes to make closing statements when the trial resumes Monday morning.
Presiding Judge Russell C. Fagg has told the jury of seven women and five men they should except to go into deliberation late Monday morning. They are tasked with reaching a unanimous verdict of guilty or not guilty on each of the 27 counts Griego faces.
Court records indicate that if convicted of the rape, kidnapping or robbery charges, Griego faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole because of his criminal history in New Mexico, which includes the rape of a 16-year-old girl.
A cellphone and no DNA, fingerprints
The case hinges largely on the contents of a phone police seized from Griego on Aug. 22, 2013. He was arrested in connection to the attacks the next day.
Numerous witnesses, including all four victims and five detectives, testified this week that time-stamped photos and videos on the phone, a Motorola Droid Razr, show the victims. Three of the victims testified the images show them as the attacks are occurring on Jan. 27, April 25 and May 27. The fourth victim testified images from the phone show her as she is watering flowers on her porch on June 26, six days before she was attacked on July 2.
The state’s final witnesses, Billings police detectives Ken Paharik and Mike Beckers, testified Friday that the victims — and Griego’s face, shoes and gloved hands — appear in deleted images another Billings police detective, Jim Woog, extracted from the phone.
Paharik said he has “zero” doubt that the attacker was Griego. “The fact of the matter is Toby Griego did these crimes,” the detective said while discussing the contents of the phone.
Griego’s attorneys never contested this week that the phone in question belongs to Griego. Detective Beckers said Griego confirmed the phone was his when it was seized on Aug. 22.
Duke and Bartleson focused on the fact that detectives never found DNA evidence, trace evidence or fingerprints of any kind linking Griego or anyone to the attacks.
Paharik, Beckers and other witnesses have testified this isn’t surprising because the attacker wore gloves and a hat, raped the victims with foreign objects, forced them to bathe, cleaned the crime scenes and then stole numerous items that could have linked him to the crimes.
Paharik and Beckers testified they never recovered the stolen items, but that this also wasn’t surprising because the attacker, who they both said was extremely sophisticated, likely disposed of the items to avoid detection.
The other evidence linking Griego to the attacks includes black skate shoes investigators seized from Griego. Todd McCrohan, forensic shoe examiner with the state crime lab, testified earlier this week that the shoes’ soles match prints found outside the residence of the victim attacked on May 27.
Prosecutors also presented as evidence earlier in the trial a voice recording of Griego that one of the victims used to identity him as her attacker.
The woman, who was attacked on July 2, testified that she is “110 percent” certain the voice in the recording is that of her attacker because of his distinct Hispanic accent and tone.