With the lights dimmed in the courtroom Monday afternoon, jurors heard a recording of the seconds when Lara Muscolino was mortally wounded.
Bang — bang, bang, bang — bang, rang out the gunshots in the Fallston house where Lara Muscolino lived with her husband, Ricardo, and their three daughters.
Spectators openly sobbed as the sound of the shots rang out, part of a video played for the jurors on the fourth day of testimony in the trial of Ricardo Muscolino, 58, who is charged with first-degree murder and use of a handgun in a violent crime in the death of his wife on Aug. 31, 2016. The trial, in Harford County Circuit Court, is being heard by Judge Yolanda Curtin.
Muscolino killed his wife, Assistant State’s Attorneys Diana Brooks and Emma Goerlich argued, because he was angry after learning that his wife was having an affair. He found out about it earlier in the day from one of his daughters, Vivian.
Vivian and Shelby Muscolino, the couple’s oldest daughters, testified in court Thursday. Also called as witnesses for the prosecution were the medical examiner and a firearms expert, as well as investigating detectives from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
Among the investigators testifying was lead Det. Seth Culver, who said he was notified of the murder at 12:41 a.m. Sept. 1, just a few hours after the shots were fired, he said. Lara Muscolino died later at a hospital.
As lead detective, he obtained a search warrant for a recording from the video surveillance in the Muscolino house.
Goerlich told the jurors during opening arguments that Lara Muscolino was an avid ghost hunter and had the “nanny-cam” to watch for signs of paranormal activity.
The video was played for jurors just after they returned from lunch Monday.
In it, they see Ricardo Muscolino and Vivian Muscolino return home and watch Vivian go upstairs to her room, which is across the hall from her parents. Ricardo Muscolino gets a glass of water from the kitchen and goes upstairs, where he enters the master bedroom he shared with Lara Muscolino.
During the video, jurors can see lightning and hear thunder from the storm outside.
They can hear yelling, then silence. Suddenly, the silence is punctured by the gunshots, five quick in quick succession.
A few seconds later, Ricardo Muscolino is quickly exiting the bedroom, going down the stairs and out of the house.
At times, as the video is playing, Ricardo Muscolino is resting his head on his fingers, watching, but sometimes looking away.
Brooks asked Culver if he noted when various things happened in the sequence of events. The detective pointed out when Ricardo Muscolino and Vivian walked into the house, and then when he went upstairs.
At one point, she yelled “Stop it, don’t point it at me,” and another time, “Stop it, Ricardo,” according to Culver’s testimony.
Later, you “hear Lara say her final word, ‘Vivian,’ then five gunshots,” he said.
Culver obtained a number of other search warrants — for Ricardo Muscolino’s phone and vehicle, the video surveillance system in the house and Lara Muscolino’s Facebook account, he testified.
He learned of the video camera in the house a week after the murder, from one of the foster parents of the daughters.
After watching it, he obtained a second search warrant for the Muscolino home.
“Initially, there were four shell casings found. After the video, where we heard five gunshots, we figured there was another casing,” Culver testified.
The Facebook messages obtained were between Lara Muscolino and Bailey Trott, with whom Lara Muscolino was having an affair.
According to messages, Culver testified, their relationship became intimate on Aug. 15, 2016; other messages indicated they made plans to travel together for a weekend.
Culver testified he didn’t arrive at the Muscolino home until about 5:30 a.m., after he interviewed the three daughters at CID headquarters and executed a search and seizure warrant for Ricardo Muscolino’s car. It has been left at the sheriff’s office Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville, where Muscolino turned himself in after he left the house and called 911.
Culver joined the investigation already begun by patrol officers and other detectives.
As part of his search of the house, which included the master bedroom, kitchen, garage and three vehicles in the driveway, Culver said he found a gun.
“I found a laundry basket on the other side of the bed. On top was a pillow, I moved the pillow and observed a handgun,” he told the jury.
He identified pictures of the gun in the laundry basket for the jury, as well as pictures of another gun that was found in a box in the house.
Kenneth Ravenell, Muscolino’s lawyer, asked Culver a series of questions during his cross-examination about Culver’s investigation, including about who turned on the lights in the couple’s bedroom before she was killed, where the gun was found and if Lara Muscolino was awake or asleep when Ricardo Muscolino entered the bedroom.
“You don’t know if Mrs. Muscolino was asleep or awake, correct?” Ravenell asked.
“Correct,” Culver replied.
He asked when Lara Muscolino and Bailey Trott last communicated by Facebook message, to which Culver responded 9:50 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2016.
He also questioned the investigation itself: “Did you do a thorough investigation?” Ravenell asked.
“Yes,” Culver replied.