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Accused killers’ words, actions tie them to Bryan Kocis murder

Wilkes Barre, Pa- Since they were arrested in May 2007, accused killers Joseph Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra have attempted to place themselves in a number of locations at the time of Bryan Kocis’ murder in Dallas Township on Jan. 24, 2007 — from the Fox Ridge Motel in Plains Township, about 12 miles away, to their home in Virginia Beach, about 385 miles due south.

Cuadra, 26, and Kerekes, 34, both of Virginia Beach, Va., are accused of slashing the neck of Kocis, a rival producer of gay pornographic films, and stabbing his torso nearly 30 times and later setting fire to his Midland Drive home.

They face the death penalty and are scheduled to stand trial together beginning Sept. 2.

In actions and conversations, they tried independently and jointly to create fail-safe alibis and failed at every turn, foiled by prosecution evidence, technology and logic.

Last week, attorneys for Cuadra filed a notice of potential alibi stating he might claim he was at the Fox Ridge Inn at the time Kocis was killed — a claim similar to an alibi being considered by Kerekes.

Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said he would likely rule by Aug. 12 on a number of pre-trial motions, including requests by both defense teams to suppress potentially incriminating evidence and to have separate trials for Cuadra and Kerekes.

Ultimately, barring a plea agreement, a case dismissal or the defendants’ demise, a jury will decide whether Cuadra and Kerekes are guilty or innocent. For now, the question remains, what of their mutual and mutually exclusive defenses is fact and what is fiction.

These are their stories, with details on how they surfaced and how the evidence stacks up against them.

Alibi: In a notice of possible alibi filed last week, Cuadra’s attorneys, Stephen Menn and Michael Senape, said Cuadra could claim he was in Room 211 of the Fox Ridge Motel in Plains Township at the time of Kocis’ killing.

The one-page notice listed no witnesses who could potentially corroborate Cuadra’s alibi story, but the attorneys did reserve the right to list witnesses on future supplemental filings.

Kerekes’ attorneys filed a similar notice in January and listed potential witnesses from Internet companies to support a theory that he stayed at the motel, sending e-mail messages and viewing Web sites, while Cuadra visited Kocis.

Neither notice indicated Cuadra and Kerekes were together at the motel.

Evidence: Cuadra and Kerekes shared vivid details about Kocis’ killing in conversations recorded by investigators in San Diego in April 2007.

Cuadra and Kerekes met with Grant Roy, a former suspect turned informant, and Sean Lockhart, Roy’s lover and business partner.

Lockhart had acted in gay pornographic films produced by Kocis’ company, Cobra Video. He and Roy had been engaged in a lawsuit over the use of his stage name, Brent Corrigan.

A settlement reached on Jan. 18, 2007, less than a week before the killing, allowed Lockhart to star in movies not involving Cobra Video, in exchange for a payment of 20 percent of the proceeds to Cobra.

Roy asked Cuadra and Kerekes if Kocis felt any pain as he was being killed. After a few moments of silence, Cuadra leaned toward Lockhart and said quietly, “Don’t worry, he went quick.”

Cuadra offered more details the next day, as he walked with Kerekes, Roy and Lockhart along a nude beach in the La Jolla section of San Diego. Roy captured the conversation with a recording device hidden in a car key remote.

“Actually seeing that (expletive) going down, actually it’s sick, but it made me feel better inside,” Cuadra said, referring to Kocis.

“It almost felt like I got revenge and I know that sounds (expletive) up.”

Cuadra first contacted Kocis via e-mail two days before the killing, posing as an inexperienced actor from the Philadelphia area named Danny Moilin.

Cuadra created an e-mail address for the Moilin character and activated a pre-paid cell phone used only to contact Kocis. Cuadra sent photographs to Kocis and requested that they meet to discuss a possible role in a future film project.

Cuadra said during the meeting Kocis had been critical of Lockhart, referring to him as “a little bitch” and “the product.”

Kerekes said Cuadra and Kocis each had a glass of wine during the meeting and stated he believed that Cuadra “slipped him something,” in his drink.

“Don’t feel too bad for him,” Cuadra told Lockhart.

“It’s what kind of made the

whole decision kind of easy, almost a little too easy,” Cuadra said. “I should have thought where all those fingers would have pointed, I remember looking at the press. I’m just glad this (expletive) is over.”

During the San Diego conversations, Cuadra and Kerekes described Kocis’ home — the design of his front door and the high-end home entertainment system he owned.

Cell phone data obtained by prosecutors also indicated Cuadra and Kerekes were in Kocis’ neighborhood at the time of the killing and witnesses reported seeing a silver Nissan Xterra rented by Cuadra at the Kocis home between 6:30 and 8:26 p.m.

The meeting between Cuadra and Kocis was scheduled for between 7 and 8 p.m. and Cuadra said he was expecting to arrive around 7:15 p.m.

The Dallas Fire Department was dispatched to the fire at Kocis’ home at 8:34 p.m.

Investigators found more links between Cuadra, Kerekes and the killing in a February search of the Virginia Beach, Va., home where the alleged killers lived, including two Sony digital video cameras that had been taken from Kocis’ home.

Alibi: Cuadra sent a handwritten note to acquaintance Nep Maliki last year, setting the story line for an alibi in which he claimed to be working as a male escort in Virginia at the time Kocis was killed.

Cuadra told Maliki, who works at a fast food restaurant in the Virginia Beach area, that they had met at Cuadra’s home on the morning of Jan. 24, 2007, the day Kocis was killed.

They were there for about an hour before they showered together and Maliki left, Cuadra said.

“I guess the thing we need to get clear is the time you came over,” Cuadra said in the note. “Did you work early that day after you saw me? At what time did you go into work that day? Please check with your work.”

The note, which Cuadra told Maliki was “for his eyes only,” was included as an exhibit in the prosecutors’ answer to an omnibus pretrial motion filed by Cuadra’s attorneys in March.

Cuadra asked former escort client Howard Hallford to corroborate the Maliki story in a May 2007 interview with police. Hallford agreed, but then backed off, saying he had only seen Cuadra once in a two-week span in mid- to late January 2007.

Evidence: The evidence, witnesses, cell phone data and e-mail records used to disprove the motel alibi placed Cuadra in Dallas Township around the time Kocis was killed.

The uncertainty and unwillingness of Maliki and Hallford to cooperate damaged any corroboration Cuadra may have received. Even if Cuadra and Maliki did meet the morning of Jan. 24 — a possibility muted by Cuadra and Kerekes’ arrival at the Fox Ridge Inn the night before — Cuadra still could have had time to make the seven-and-a-half hour drive from Virginia Beach to Kocis’ home.

Alibi: In a telephone conversation recorded by investigators while he was imprisoned at the Virginia Beach Correctional Facility, Kerekes explained to Renee Martin, an acquaintance and former neighbor who has been described by prosecutors as their business associate, that he planned to fight his arrest and eventual extradition to Luzerne County by claiming he was not in Pennsylvania when Kocis was murdered.

Evidence: Kerekes checked into the Fox Ridge Inn in Plains Township with Cuadra on Jan. 23, 2007, and showed a photo identification to the owner, Thakor Patel. Kerekes also indicated to Patel that the vehicle he and Cuadra had arrived in was gray with a Virginia registration. Cuadra rented a silver Nissan Xterra the previous morning from an Enterprise Rent-a-Car office in Virginia Beach, prosecutors said.

On the check-in slip, Kerekes noted that he was from Virginia and originally started to provide an address of “1028 Str,” before crossing it out and giving a different Virginia address, but with a Florida zip code, prosecutors said. Kerekes and Cuadra lived at 1028 Stratem Court in Virginia Beach.

Alibi: After they became disconnected, Kerekes called Martin back and said he was ready to confess the real story of what happened the night Kocis was killed. Martin sug-gested Kerekes tell the story in a hypothetical form — an alibi referred to by the defendants and prosecutors as “Plan B.”

“OK, once upon a time there was a gay escort couple that, ya know, once upon a time that thought maybe working with this movie producer would be good, whereas he, you know, he had access to other young stars that would enhance one of the two’s career, so they set up an appointment to meet,” Kerekes told Martin.

Kerekes said one of the men went to meet the producer while the other stayed in a hotel room. The hypothetical story matches up to Cuadra visiting Kocis and Kerekes staying at the Fox Ridge Inn, prosecutors said.

“When he approached the home, obviously there had been an intrusion, and the door was open,” Kerekes said. “Hypothetically and supposedly then, he found what was there, and he, supposedly and hypothetically, ran and came back to the older one, which was in the hotel and they were scared.”

Evidence: The phone data obtained by prosecutors indicated Cuadra and Kerekes were in Kocis’ neighborhood at the time of the killing. Their own admissions in the San Diego conversations, as well as the other evidence used to disprove Cuadra’s motel alibi, show an intimate knowledge of the Kocis’ home and the events surrounding his death.

Alibi: Kerekes previously suggested he had been making an escort call, sending e-mails and visiting Web sites at the Fox Ridge Inn when the killing occurred.

Kerekes sent an e-mail to the alleged client, Matthew Brannon of Fayetteville, N.C., at-tempting to bolster his Fox Ridge Motel claim, four minutes after the fire at Kocis’ house was called in to 911 and 10 to 13 minutes after a neighbor witnessed the Nissan Xterra backing out of Kocis’ driveway, prosecutors said.

Evidence: Brannon, a computer expert, said he was not in Pennsylvania on Jan. 24, 2007, and adamantly denied to investigators being with Kerekes that night.

He said the e-mail from Kerekes could have been sent from anywhere using a mobile air card. State police confirmed continuous Internet connectivity is available throughout the area where Kocis’ house was located.

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