The young Islip man who was beaten, choked and buried alive in a swampy grave had apparently recently rekindled a dormant friendship on Facebook with the man who ended up killing him in November 2011, jurors learned Monday in Riverhead.
Jurors in the second-degree murder trial of Thomas Liming, 23, saw some of the last messages he exchanged with the victim, Kyle Underhill, 18, and some of Underhill's seemingly angry posts -- although prosecutors suggested some of that may have been related to the popular college game Humans vs. Zombies.
Liming's defense concedes he killed Underhill, but has suggested he did so in self-defense. The two had been friends at Islip High School but had a falling out shortly before graduation. But in August 2011, Underhill's Facebook account shows he reached out to Liming.
The tone is mostly lighthearted and occasionally crude. But Underhill also said he had attempted suicide, and Liming said he also was going crazy.
"My mind was never wired correctly," Liming wrote.
"Yeah, I know," Underhill replied. "You made it sound like that's something new."
Outside the jury's presence, defense attorney Joseph Corozzo of Manhattan argued that jurors should hear more of the darker posts on Underhill's Facebook profile from the last two months of his life.
"Experiencing blind, murderous rage with no source. Hm," Underhill wrote in one. "This should be an interesting night."
A few days later he wrote: "Gonna slaughter anyone who looks at me the wrong way. The world's my enemy tonight." Among the others in a stretch of similarly bleak posts, he asked "what to do with all this hate."
Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl argued to state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen that most of those posts were inadmissible and irrelevant, and at least one later post had more to do with Humans vs. Zombies, a game in which teams hunt each other with foam darts and marshmallow launchers.
"They're trying to smear Kyle's character," Pearl said of the defense. "They're trying to communicate to the jury that he deserved to die."
Corozzo denied that.
"I'm not trying to besmirch Kyle Underhill," he said. "I'm trying to put it [the Facebook posts] into context."
Cohen allowed the jury to hear two of the many posts, but in making his ruling, he suggested even those were of limited value. "This is an 18-year-old writing on Facebook," Cohen told the lawyers.
Later Monday, jurors began seeing photos of some of the evidence found in the Brook Street woods before Underhill's body was discovered. The items included a shovel, latex gloves and a bottle of bleach.