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Detective's comment draws call for mistrial

A handout image of Kalila Taylor who is

A handout image of Kalila Taylor who is being tried in the 1996 killing of Curtisha Morning. Credit: SCPD/Handout

A Suffolk jury heard one reason too many Wednesday why a Riverhead woman was suspected of stabbing a romantic rival 94 times.

Kalila Taylor, now 35, is on trial for the second time in the February 1996 killing of Curtisha Morning, 17. She was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999, but an appellate court overturned the verdict in 2004 because of faulty jury instructions.

Wednesday, retired homicide Det. Vincent Stephan explained how he came to focus on Taylor as a suspect, including one comment that drew a request for a mistrial from the defense.

"Curtisha was stabbed about 94 times," he said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson. "In my opinion, there was a lot of rage associated with the wounds. It was overkill."

Stephan said he learned that Morning had recently begun dating Carl Brown Jr., and that he had a child with Taylor. He arrested Taylor on April 4, 1996, and questioned her about what she did the day of the murder and about numerous scars, scratches and wounds on her body. He said he noted a recent cut on her right hand, which he said could have been the result of holding a knife that slipped.

Taylor told him about getting stabbed, bitten and thrown in the bushes by different people, but couldn't explain that cut, Stephan said. He said she was "sarcastic, arrogant, dismissive" while they talked.

Stephan said he asked her if she'd stabbed Brown while they were together, drawing a motion for a mistrial from defense attorney John LoTurco. After jurors were sent out, he told the judge they should have been shielded from that detail because it unfairly suggests "the method and motive in the murder. The insinuation is that first she stabbed Carl Brown, and then she stabbed Curtisha Morning."

Albertson replied, "Actually, Mr. LoTurco stated the theory of the case far more eloquently than the detective did." She conceded the detail shouldn't have been mentioned but argued it wasn't serious enough to cause a mistrial.

State Supreme Court Justice William Condon agreed and denied the motion.

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