Report: Teen suspects told police death of Henderson 17-year-old - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Report: Teen suspects told police death of Henderson 17-year-old was accidental

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Jaiden Caruso (L) and Kody Harlan (R). (LVMPD) Jaiden Caruso (L) and Kody Harlan (R). (LVMPD)
HENDERSON, NV (FOX5) -

Video from the scene of the shooting death of a 17-year-old in Henderson appeared to show the suspects cleaning and destroying evidence after the boy died, police said.

Jaiden Caruso, 16, and Kody Harlan, 17, were arrested and charged as adults in connection with the shooting death of Matthew Minkler on Friday, Officer Scott Williams of Henderson Police said. Both boys were transferred to Clark County Detention Center.

Wednesday night, police arrested a third juvenile connected to the incident. The teen's name was not released.

Caruso faced one charge of murder with a deadly weapon and Harlan faced charges of accessory to murder after the fact and destroying evidence. 

Minkler died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the coroner, and was found in an abandoned house. 

[RELATED: Henderson crash Friday night involving juveniles leads to murder arrest]

Officials were led to Minkler's location after several teens were spotted by police driving recklessly Friday night in a Mercedes sedan. Police said the sedan then crashed into another car.

The teens fled on foot before being detained quickly, according to Henderson police. The Mercedes was later determined to be stolen. 

According to a police report, Caruso and Harlan, who were in the vehicle, initially told police one of the teens brought the gun to the house, then initiated a game of “Russian roulette.” The game involves one bullet loaded into a revolver, then the chamber is spun and players take turns firing the gun at themselves until a shot is fired.

Minkler’s father said he does not believe the suspects were telling the truth.

“He was just a lovable handsome young man, never harmed anybody,” Minkler’s father Steve said.

Steve Minkler described his son as a kid who loved football, basketball and playing Xbox, not the type of teen who would get caught up in the deadly game.

“There's evidence that indicates there's more to the story than that,” Williams said. “That's why we're putting a message out for witnesses to come forward.”

Through the investigation, police said they found videos on the teens’ phones from the day of the shooting. The first video, recorded at 12:59 p.m., showed one of the two suspects inside the house at 2736 Cool Lilac Avenue, holding the gun.

In another video, recorded at 2:44 p.m., one of the suspects speaks to the camera saying, “Bro, I just caught a body,” slang for having killed someone, according to police. The person recording the video then walks to the kitchen floor where Minkler is seen “actively bleeding.”

In text messages at the same period, Caruso tells a friend “he caught a body,” police said, then followed up saying he “popped him on accident.”

A video recorded six minutes later showed Minkler’s body had been moved. According to the police report, another voice asks if they are going to leave the body there and one of the suspects is seen cleaning off blood.

Henderson Police said they are still investigating and searching for more teenagers that may have been involved with the murder. 

On Thursday, an old video began circulating on social media. The video first made the rounds online back in April after an alleged school shooting threat against Canarelli Middle School. In the video, it is not clear who, but someone was recorded saying “Shoot the school up, make it go boom.”

The people seen in the video were under investigation by Clark County School District Police. Police determined the gun seen in the video to be a BB Gun, and that there was no credible threat against the school. Kody Harlan could be seen in the video. 

The video upset valley parents who said if something was done back then, maybe Minkler would still be alive.

"It would be really difficult to lose a child that age,” Rob Schneider, a neighbor who lives near the crime scene said. “That is right in the prime, when you can enjoy all the rewards of all the work you put into them.”

Police said neither Caruso nor Harlan called 911 or attempted to render aid to Minkler.

Minkler’s body was found by police in a downstairs closet. On the door, “in what can only be described as a heinous action after the fact,” police said, someone spray painted “F*** Matt” on the closet door.  

In another interview with Caruso, he denied being the shooter, then when shown the videos from his cellphone, he “completely broke down and admitted his involvement,” claiming it was an accident. It was unclear if the teens were still playing the game. 

"I think, we all think, it was premeditated," Minkler's father said. "They were taking him there to kill him in the first place.”

Caruso attributed the shooting to being high on the drug Xanax, police said in the arrest report.

The suspect also told police they took Minkler’s wallet after he was shot and used $300 from it to buy shoes and drugs later that day.

Investigators recovered the wallet and a Ruger .357 revolver from the stolen vehicle, hidden under a front seat.

“This discovery was also vital because although [suspect] claimed to have returned to the scene because ‘he didn’t feel right just leaving his friend,’ the fact that they stole his wallet speaks otherwise,” police said.

Several other teens were present at the time of the shooting, police said, but they have not been located or identified.

“That’s alarming for us,” Williams said. “If juveniles saw this murder and no one has come forward or talked to their parents about it, that's concerning. That's a traumatic event for a juvenile to see, for anyone to see.”

Henderson police said this was the fourth homicide to have occurred in 2018.

The victim’s father said his family is trying to focus on celebrating Minkler’s life, starting with a candlelight vigil at Pebble Park Friday evening. The park is located at 8975 Topaz Street in Henderson. The family said they will accept public visits at his funeral at Davis Funeral Homes and Memorial Park on June 30 from 11 a.m. to noon.

Harlan and Caruso were in court for a status check Thursday. 

The family also has a GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/5nrah3c

Anyone with information connected to this case was urged to please call the Henderson Police Department at 702-267-4911, 311, or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or visit Crime Stoppers website. 

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