HIBBING, Minn. — Jury deliberations began Monday afternoon in the trial of Michael Carbo Jr., who is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Nancy Daugherty in the summer of 1986 — a case that was long unsolved before DNA evidence led authorities to the local man who had never before been a suspect in the case.
Carbo was irrefutably at the crime scene and definitely had sex with Daugherty — both sides agree. His DNA was found in several places in her home, including on a pink washcloth found on a dresser and beneath her fingernails. Carbo's fingerprint was on the lid of her toilet.
"She fought," prosecuting attorney Jon Holets said during closing arguments. "She grabbed that evidence, his and her DNA, under her fingernails. Nobody else's DNA."
The defense has argued that Daugherty and Carbo engaged in consensual sex, which is why her arms, legs, and torso — all but her neck — are free from the scrapes and bruising that would indicate a struggle. Her clothes were right-side out, no buttons missing or tears, he said. Defense attorney JD Schmid said Carbo left after using her bathroom.
Schmid directed jurors to a dark green truck that multiple witnesses described seeing at the scene. It couldn't belong to Carbo, he said. The accused didn't have a truck and he didn't drive at that point in his life.
"Someone else strangled her later," Schmid said.
The defense rested on Monday morning without calling any witnesses and the case was handed over to the jury of seven women and five men in the middle of the afternoon. Supporters of Carbo and members of Daugherty's family have been in the courtroom for much of the trial. The room was nearly full during closing arguments.
Carbo, 54, faces two charges of first-degree murder while committing a criminal sexual act. He will serve a mandatory life sentence if he is found guilty.
Daugherty, 38, spent her last night out at a Chisholm pizza parlor with her friend Brian Evenson, who dropped her off at home after midnight and hung around for a bit before leaving. Daugherty had plans to go to school to be a paramedic in the Twin Cities and was preparing to move the next day.
Evenson, who planned to help Daugherty move items into storage, was unable to get hold of her in the morning. He made repeated phone calls and several drop-ins to her home. He later connected with neighbors who had overheard an argument and physical struggle early in the morning. Two teenaged girls had crept out into the dark to investigate, but the voices went quiet.
Evenson and the neighbors contacted law enforcement officials, broke into Daugherty's house, and found her dead in her bed.
Carbo's attorneys had originally sought an alternate perpetrator defense — pointing at a specific person who was previously a suspect in the case. The motion was denied. Schmid offered that Daugherty was killed after Carbo left, but he has been stopped short of anything more specific about his alternate suspect than that the person owned a dark green vehicle.
Carbo first denied having sex with Daugherty, but later recanted, saying he drank a lot back then and sometimes blacked out. He didn't remember having sex with her, he said in a follow-up interview with investigators.
"The reason he doesn't remember," Schmid said, is that "he was so drunk he threw up in the yard."
The prosecution called one witness Friday — Nancy Daugherty's estranged husband James Daugherty, who was in Germany with the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard in the days surrounding his wife's murder.
He testified that he was sent back to Chisholm because of a family emergency, but he didn't get the details until he got home.
"It was a blow, believe me," he said.
At the time of her murder, Daugherty had been asked who might have had a motive to kill her. He no longer recalls what he previously told investigators.
"It was 30 years ago, sir," he said to Schmid. "I'm getting a little on the old side."