By Nick Schroeder, BDN Staff
Tuesday December 10, 2019
PORTLAND, Maine — The murder trial of Mark Cardilli Jr. began Monday with an at-times tearful testimony from his sister, who spoke of a strained family relationship in the months before her brother allegedly shot and killed Isahak Muse in March.
Answering questions from the state prosecuting attorney, Chelsey Cardilli described a family divide between her 25-year-old brother and father who disapproved of her relationship with the 23-year-old Muse, a Somali immigrant.
“Once [Mark] went into the Army, that’s when everything changed between us,” Cardilli said.
Chelsey Cardilli’s testimony marked the first statements of the trial of Mark Cardilli Jr., who is accused of fatally shooting Muse at the Cardilli family home on Milton Street during the early hours of March 16. Cardilli has pleaded not guilty.
Cardilli waived his right to a jury, letting Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills determine the verdict in a weeklong trial in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. Cardilli’s defense attorney has said that a judge is better equipped to understand state self-defense laws than a jury.
Chelsey Cardilli’s testimony on Monday described the night of the fatal altercation in detail. She also shared months of text messages between her and her father, who struggled to enforce parameters for the relationship between his then-17-year-old daughter and her older boyfriend.
Cardilli and Muse — whom she called “Ikey” — had been dating since late spring 2018. He had frequently visited Cardilli at her home during 2018 and early 2019 — three or four times a week according to Cardilli — and stayed the night, often against the wishes of her father.
The testimony also featured video clips of moments from the night of the shooting, including one of a conversation between Muse and Suzanne Cardilli — Mark and Chelsey’s mother — that brought Chelsey Cardilli to tears on the stand. Cardilli described her mother as having “become close” with Muse, and that their conversation that night was “funny and serious at the same time.”
Suzanne Cardilli had given permission for Muse to stay the night of the shooting, according to Chelsey Cardilli. The altercation broke out around 1 a.m., between Mark Cardilli Jr. and his father on one side and Muse on the other, with Chelsey Cardilli fighting with her brother and father in an attempt to stop them. The Cardilli men told Muse to leave and pushed him toward the door. Muse went back to Chelsey Cardilli’s room to collect his phone.
Mark Cardilli Jr. had reappeared with a gun and said he would shoot Muse if he did not leave, according to Chelsey Cardilli.
“They were about a foot away from each other,” Cardilli said.
“Shoot me, it will be on the news,” Muse said while Mark Cardilli Jr. had pointed a gun at him, according to testimony from Chelsey Cardilli.
A medical examiner reported that the fatal bullets hit Muse i n the back, according to The Associated Press. Muse was unarmed.
Maine law permits people to use deadly force in defense of themselves or their homes in certain circumstances, such as when a person is committing a criminal trespass, and if that other person is committing or is likely to commit another crime.
In another clip, Mark Cardilli Jr. was identified as saying telling Muse, “You need to get out.”
Muse’s voice was heard saying, “Why are you hurting me? Why are you hurting me?”
The death of Muse, who was a frequent guest in the house, sparked a large protest from Portland’s immigrant community.
Muse was a graduate of Deering High School, where he was a standout basketball player. The courthouse was filled with many of his former classmates and others from the immigrant community.
Chelsey Cardilli said that Mark Cardilli Jr. had a history of making racist and Islamophobic remarks, and had told her that “Muslims were terrorists.”
Mark Cardilli Sr. and Suzanne Cardilli had been informally separated, according to Chelsey Cardilli. Her father had been sleeping in the basement. Mark Cardilli Jr. had been staying in an apartment above the garage.
Chelsey Cardilli had been on criminal probation since January. The terms of the probation included that she was not allowed to see Muse. In testimony to defense attorney Matt Nichols, Chelsey Cardilli said she had called her parents to pick her up after a fight with Muse in summer 2018.
Mark Cardilli Jr. has been held at Cumberland County Jail since his arrest on April 5.