Special agent Joseph Auther of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified yesterday that he is 100-percent sure that the former girlfriend of Joseph A. Crisostomo identified the latter as the other voice in the 911 call that bartender Emerita Romero made before she was murdered.
Auther, who used to be assigned on Saipan and is now with the FBI in Colorado, testified via Skype during a hearing in the Superior Court on Crisostomo’s motion to suppress all testimony regarding pretrial identification of the suspect.
Police detective Elias Saralu and Crisostomo’s former girlfriend of 17 years also testified.
Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho later placed the motion under advisement.
In Crisostomo’s motion to suppress, defense counsel Janet H. King argued that the FBI’s identification procedure in the investigation of Romero’s case was “unduly suggestive.”
King said that Crisostomo’s former girlfriend and her male companion were told the purpose of the meeting would be to discuss Crisostomo.
In response to questions by assistant attorney general Brian Flaherty and King, Auther explained the circumstances that led him and Department of Public Safety police officers to play Romero’s 911 call to Crisostomo’s former girlfriend at the DPS Criminal Investigation Bureau office on Capital Hill on Feb. 17, 2012.
Auther said that when the ex-girlfriend heard the male voice in the recording, she reacted and identified Crisostomo.
The special agent said other police officers who also heard the voice recognized it as that of Crisostomo’s.
Auther said the male voice was trying to calm down Romero using a word that he (Auther) understood at that time was “silent.” Auther said he found the word weird, so he asked the ex-girlfriend to listen to that particular term in the recording.
The agent said the former girlfriend explained that the word was actually “sorry”—a word that Crisostomo would often use after beating her up when they were still together.
Auther described listening to the 911 call as “chilling, very disturbing.”
Auther agreed with Flaherty that playing the 911 call for the former girlfriend for identification was one of the available investigative tools at that time to make sure that they were “on the right track.”
He said that playing the recording for the former girlfriend was something that needed to be done as it would confirm that they were “on the right track.”
Responding to King’s questions, Auther disclosed that the 911 recording was later played for Crisostomo’s sister during the investigators’ search of her house. Auther said the sister listened to the recording and said the voice was that of another person, not Crisostomo’s.
The agent stated, however, that the sister’s answers to their questions appeared untruthful. He said the sister appeared to be upset, unhappy, and that she was making some demands.
Investigators learned that the sister was the one who rented the car, which Crisostomo allegedly drove and where Romero was last seen boarding in Garapan in the early morning of Feb. 5, 2012. FBI agents, including Auther, found Romero’s body two days later at the former La Fiesta Mall in San Roque.
Auther disclosed that a strand of Romero’s hair was found inside the car.