LAS VEGAS (AP) — Images of a glamorous brown-eyed dancer from the racy “Fantasy” revue and her dismembered corpse were shown for the first time Thursday to a Las Vegas jury hearing opening statements in the murder trial of an ex-boyfriend accused of killing her almost 3½ years ago.
Jason Omar Griffith sat impassively with his attorneys as prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo told the jury that evidence during the next several days will prove that Griffith choked Deborah Flores Narvaez and asphyxiated her with a plastic bag over her head — and twice tried to dispose of her body in tubs of cement.
Griffith defense attorney Jeff Banks told the jury the case isn’t that simple.
Griffith, now 35, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. Banks said evidence will show he was defending himself when his ex-girlfriend died.
“They will show you pictures, and they will be gruesome and they will be shocking,” Banks said. “But that does not change the fact … that he was scared and he was afraid that she was violent, and Jason Griffith was defending himself on Dec. 12, 2010.”
Jurors were questioned for three days this week about what they remembered about news reports of Debbie Flores’ disappearance in December 2010 and Griffith’s arrest in January 2011.
The story began as a missing person case, with posters and fliers distributed to the media. It made headlines for weeks through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays while Flores’ sister, Celeste Flores Narvaez, pleaded publicly for information.
Banks said the jury will hear about violence, property crimes, stalking, threats, harassment — all “by Debbie Flores against Mr. Griffith” — as well as acts of battery and weapons.
A key piece of evidence is a video recording that Griffith made while confronting Flores about his car tires being slashed.
In it, Flores admits to hitting Griffith, entering his house, looking on his computer, pouring egg whites on his car and slashing three tires.
DiGiacomo predicted that every witness in the case would describe a volatile relationship between Flores and Griffith, who was arrested after an October domestic argument with Flores.
The prosecutor spent more than an hour weaving a tale of tangled and overlapping romances — and Griffith becoming depressed and suicidal between the October fight with Flores and his 31st birthday on Dec. 10.
Griffith, a dancer in the Cirque du Soleil show “Love” at The Mirage, was having trouble juggling relationships at the time with Flores and with another woman, a dancer in another Cirque show at another Las Vegas Strip resort, DiGiacomo said.
Police finally cracked the disappearance-turned-homicide case when they gave Griffith’s housemate, Louis Colombo, immunity from prosecution.
Colombo told police he left the house after seeing Griffith put his hands around Flores’ neck as they argued. When he returned, he could see Flores was dead.
A friend, Kalae Casorso, told police that Griffith admitted to her that Debbie Flores was in the huge tub of cement he and Colombo tried to store at her house.
DiGiacomo’s description was graphic.
The tub, with Flores’ body and 600 pounds of cement, weighed more than 700 pounds as Griffith and Colombo tried to wheel it on dollies to a vacant home, the prosecutor said.
He said Colombo would describe standing watch outside as Griffith chiseled the big block apart and sawed the legs off Flores’ corpse to fit her remains in two smaller concrete-filled tubs that weighed less.
“The problem for Mr. Griffith is, it’s painfully apparent that he never does anything alone,” DiGiacomo told the jury as he stood before a video screen showing autopsy photos of the torso and severed legs.