More than 7 years after 18-year-old Becky Friedli, her mother Vicki Friedli, and Vicki's boyfriend John Hayward were found dead and burned at a home in Pinyon Pines, two men are now charged with their murders. Cristin Smith and Robert Pape made their first appearance in court in Riverside, where a judge read them the charges they face. NewsChannel 3 and CBS Local 2 were inside the courtroom during Wednesday's arraignment. Both Smith and Pape did not show any emotion, keeping their eyes down and forward throughout the ten minute proceeding.
Pape and Smith each face three charges of murder with special enhancements of multiple murders and personal use of a firearm against a victim. The arraignment comes after a grand jury indicted Pape and Smith for the triple murder. "These are very serious charges including the potential of the death penalty on one of them," said John Hall, the public information officer for the Riverside County district attorney's office. "We wouldn't be filing these charges if we didn't believe we had a strong case."
Pape, Becky Friedli's ex-boyfriend according to a grand jury affidavit, was eighteen during the killings and the special enhancements make him eligible for the death penalty. Pape was represented by a public defender. His arraignment has been continued while he looks to hire a private lawyer. He did not enter a plea.
Smith's name has been stricken from the indictment because he was seventeen at the time of the crime. The district attorney filed a separate felony complaint against him. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and could face life in prison. "They've got the wrong person and that frustrates me because the person or persons who committed this crime is still out there," said James Cicalese, Smith's lawyer.
Cicalese maintains his client's innocence, pointing to Smith's military service as proof of his character. The sergeant is a highly decorated member of the Army's elite Second Ranger battalion. While Cicalese prepares his defense, the DA hopes to give the families of the victims, something they've waited for, for a long time. "The fact that it's done now will hopefully bring some solace and some sort of peace to the families of the victims in this case."
The district attorney also unsealed documents used during the grand jury proceedings. Documents which state a likely match to Smith's DNA at the murder scene as well as other evidence. Things Cicalese says, he look forward to challenging. "It's very easy to say something. It's quite another to prove it."
Both men are scheduled to appear in court again on March 18 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
Stay with News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 for any developments.