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Bryan Kocis Murder trial: Harlow Cuadra Sticks with His Kerekes Did It Story

WILKES-BARRE — Harlow Cuadra admitted he was in Bryan Kocis’ Dallas Township home on Jan. 24, 2007, but testified Tuesday he didn’t kill Kocis.

His partner, Joseph Kerekes,[pictured] stabbed Kocis in a jealous rage, Cuadra told jurors in the 11th day of testimony in his capital homicide trial.

Later, when he asked Kerekes about the crime, Kerekes ignored him, Cuadra said.

“He told me, ‘So what, I killed him,’” Cuadra testified. “‘So what? I got away with murder.’”

Three potential defense witnesses were called, but most of Tuesday was dedicated to Cuadra, 27, who stated his case that he didn’t kill 44-year-old Kocis. Cuadra detailed his personal life, how he met Kerekes and the controlling manner Kerekes had over him. Cuadra knew Kerekes had killed Kocis, he said, but he didn’t go to police out of fear of what might happen to Kerekes or what he might do to him.

“People can say, ‘Harlow, do this’ or ‘Harlow, do that,’ but they don’t know,” Cuadra said. “They’re not Harlow. They’re not with Joseph. Individual valor doesn’t matter when you’re with Joseph in a little room.”

Before Cuadra took the stand, jurors saw Kerekes, who was called to testify. Wearing prison garb and shackles, Kerekes took the stand briefly but refused to speak about the case.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents, and it would destroy them if I said something that I didn’t do,” Kerekes said. He said he had spoken with Cuadra’s attorney Joseph D’Andrea about testifying but had changed his mind.

Kerekes, 35, pleaded guilty to second-degree homicide in December and is serving a life sentence. In his plea, he said Cuadra killed Kocis and then set fire to his Dallas Township home in January 2007.

“You stole my son,” Cuadra’s mother shouted at Kerekes as he left the courtroom.

Cuadra, who has said little publicly since his May 2007 arrest for Kocis’ homicide, could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree homicide. He sobbed and had to stop several times during his more than four hours of testimony. Cuadra will remain on the stand this morning as lead prosecutor Michael Melnick continues his cross-examination.

It was Kerekes’ initial idea to shoot a film with Cobra Video, the gay pornography company owned by Kocis, Cuadra said. Kerekes set up the e-mail account for “Danny Moilin,” and Cuadra just followed along. Moilin was the name of a fictitious model who was to meet with Kocis the day he was killed. Kocis knew who he was, based on the photos Kerekes had e-mailed him, Cuadra said.

“I asked him about Cobra,” Cuadra said, indicating it was a bizarre name. “He said ‘better than Boy Batter.’”

Boy Batter is the gay pornography Web site Cuadra and Kerekes ran in Virginia Beach, Va.

Kerekes dropped Cuadra off around 7 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2007, at Kocis’ home for a potential video shoot with Kocis, Cuadra said. For about 20 minutes, Cuadra talked pleasantly with Kocis at his Midland Drive home, Cuadra said, when a “rapid knock” came at the front door.

“I never thought it would be Joe,” Cuadra said, but it was Kerekes who “stormed through the door” and began to fight with Kocis. Kerekes pulled out a small knife and then slashed Kocis’ neck, Cuadra said.

“I’m shouting at Joe, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’” Cuadra said. “He pushed me down.”

Scared, Cuadra left and hid in the rental car the two men had driven to Pennsylvania, Cuadra said, as Kerekes lit fire to Kocis’ home and likely stole things from his home.

The plan to shoot with Cobra came together after a previous business relationship started to fall through, Cuadra said. Kerekes and Cuadra met with Grant Roy, another pornography producer, and his business partner Sean Lockhart in Las Vegas around Jan. 10, 2007, Cuadra said. Kerekes and Roy wanted Lockhart and Cuadra to shoot three films together.

“They talked about the deal like (Lockhart and I) weren’t even there,” Cuadra said. “Joe and Grant were both really excited about it.”

Kerekes tried to give Roy $12,000 in cash to seal the negotiation, Cuadra testified, but Roy turned it down saying, “We’ll all make a lot of money out of this.”

Kocis had a contract with Lockhart at the time, which was a problem, Cuadra said. Roy mentioned during dinner that the issue was being settled, but there was still animosity, Cuadra said.

“Joe said, ‘I would’ve killed him a long time ago,’” Cuadra testified. According to Cuadra’s testimony, Roy responded: “Yeah, I thought about that. But you know what, the way this thing is, if that (expletive) ends up dead everyone will be looking at pointing the finger to me.”

Melnick questioned various aspects of Cuadra’s story during about an hour of cross-examination.

“Mr. Cuadra, let’s cut to the chase. Are you saying that Grant Roy and Sean Lockhart have anything to do with this murder?” Melnick asked.

“No,” Cuadra responded. Melnick cited other examples where Cuadra’s testimony didn’t match prosecution evidence.

He showed credit cards that Kerekes owned — Cuadra had said Kerekes would pay for things using credit cards in Cuadra’s name.

Melnick cited a letter Cuadra had written from jail to a friend, that said he’d “need an attorney who can tell a good story.”

“A good story, not the truth?” Melnick asked.

And, Melnick showed e-mails and phone calls that indicated Cuadra wanted to meet with Kocis a day before he was killed.

“You wanted to kill him on Tuesday night, didn’t you?” Melnick asked.

“No,” Cuadra said. Melnick asked why Cuadra didn’t tell police the story once he was in jail on the crime.

“You met him,” Cuadra said, crying and pointing to a detective on the case. “He would’ve killed me.”

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