FULLERTON — Weeks after his arrest in early November, murder suspect Edward Charles III called from jail and asked his grandfather to take the blame for the killing of Charles' parents and younger brother because "you've lived your life," the grandfather testified Friday.
Bernard Severino, 73, said Charles did not confess to the slayings during the conversation and at one point suggested that Severino could have murdered Edward and Dolores Charles and their son Danny, 19.
Severino testified that Charles said, " 'Grandpa, I'm 22 years old. I'm a young fellow. You're an old man. . . . Perhaps you should take the blame for this. You've lived your life.' "
Severino, who lived in the Fullerton house with the victims, said he got angry, cursed and hung up on his grandson. Charles called back a few minutes later, pleading that his girlfriend was pregnant and that he had to get on with his life, Severino said.
Severino was one of two prosecution witnesses to testify Friday before Municipal Judge Robert Keefe, opening a preliminary hearing to decide whether Charles should stand trial in the killing of his three family members. The victims were bludgeoned, stabbed and choked, then stuffed into a car that was set on fire in La Mirada on Nov. 7.
The 22-year-old Charles, who faces the death penalty if convicted, has pleaded not guilty.
His lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Ronald Klar, sought to portray a fractious family divided by sibling rivalry and the parents' disapproval of their older son, including his failure to stay in college and his relationship with his girlfriend.
Under Klar's questioning, Severino said the parents--Edward Charles Jr., 55, a Hughes Aircraft engineer, and Dolores Charles, 47, a self-employed typist--heaped praise on Danny Charles, a USC student and award-winning young performer. But Severino said he could not recall any time they showed the same admiration for their eldest son, a Fullerton mechanic who dropped out of college twice and surprised friends with talk of trying out for the Olympic boxing team.
Severino said the couple viewed their eldest son as a disappointment "because he didn't go to college or finish college."
Charles argued with his "perfectionist" father, and the two sometimes did not speak to each other, Severino said. Family tension grew during the past year, Severino said, when the defendant started dating a 27-year-old cosmetology student.
"I don't think Dolores was too fond of her," Severino said. He did not say why.
A homeless woman, LeAnn Pollaccia, testified that two days after the slayings, she found a pile of bloody clothes, necklaces and a bloody wrench in a Fullerton dumpster, where she was looking for aluminum cans.
Prosecutors said the wrench, later turned over to police, has an unusual logo matching symbols on other tools belonging to the defendant.
Pollaccia acknowledged she faces felony drug charges in Santa Ana and was housed for a month by prosecutors.
The hearing resumes March 31. Deputy Dist. Atty. David Brent said Friday's session was set early out of concern that, because of Severino's age and Pollaccia's transient life, the witnesses might not be readily available for the main hearing later.