A San Francisco couple accused of murder in connection with the 2007 death of their housemate will stand trial for the second time in January.
Richard Carelli, now 39, and Michele Pinkerton, now 40, have been in custody since April 2008, Carelli charged with murdering 49-year-old Leonard Milo Hoskins on Dec. 22, 2007 and Pinkerton charged as an accessory to murder.
Police found Hoskins’ body inside Carelli’s van weeks after Hoskins’ family reported him missing, and after Carelli and Pinkerton had vacated their Lamartine Street home in the Mission Terrace neighborhood.
The couple was later found in Baja Mexico, where they were arrested.
A mistrial was declared last month after a jury acquitted Carelli of first-degree murder but failed to agree on lesser charges.
District attorney’s office spokesman Brian Buckelew said today that a decision was made late last week to retry the pair. The new trial, at which Carelli can be found guilty at most of second-degree murder, is set to begin Jan. 15.
The penalty for second-degree murder is 15 years to life in prison.
Prosecutor Pam Pecora-Hansen had argued during the trial that Carelli, who along with Pinkerton had a history of methamphetamine abuse, was angry about being evicted from the home and in part blamed Hoskins. The two were trying to sober up and worried an eviction would hurt their chances of regaining custody of their young daughter.
Pecora-Hansen said Carelli confronted Hoskins in the driveway of the home, hit him in the head with a wooden stick, and dragged him inside the couple’s garage in-law unit. She said Carelli then fatally smothered him with a pillow, wrapped the body in a sleeping bag, blankets and duct tape, and hid it in inside the van.
Defense attorneys claimed it was mutual combat, and that Hoskins died of a heart attack brought on by a pre-existing medical condition and his own methamphetamine use, as well as adrenaline from the fight.
The van had been impounded as part of a missing persons investigation that began in January, but Hoskins’ body wasn’t discovered inside until Feb. 1, when police opened the van in an impound yard.
Partly because of the decomposition of the body, the medical examiner in the case could only rule the cause of Hoskins’ death “probable asphyxia with blunt-force trauma.”
Carelli admitted on the stand during the trial that neither he nor Pinkerton called police after Hoskins died, but claimed that was because he had panicked.
He could not explain why he wrapped up the body and hid it in the van, nor why he lied to police who interviewed him in January, before they left the country, about there having been a fight.