Las Vegas Sun

January 23, 2019

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Young suspect recounts shooting death of teen at abandoned Henderson home

Updated Wednesday, June 13, 2018 | 9:25 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Jaiden Caruso

Click to enlarge photo

Kody Harlan

A teenager arrested in connection with a boy’s death in an abandoned Henderson house Friday — who told city police another teen had pulled the trigger after proposing a game of Russian roulette — claimed he was friends with the victim.

But after the revolver’s single bullet left the chamber, not only did Kody Harlan, 17, and a group of teens not render aid to Matthew Minkler as he lay bleeding, he also allegedly snatched his wallet, and later returned to help drag the boy’s body — covering it with plastic — and lodged it into a closet, which was spray-painted with an expletive purportedly directed at the victim, according to court documents.

He also stood by while the alleged shooter, Jaiden Caruso, 16, boastfully filmed himself tinkering with a Ruger .357 revolver, later telling his targeted audience that he’d just “caught a body,” panning to capture different angles of the gravely wounded Minkler, 17, lying on the kitchen floor in the 2000 block of Cool Lilac Avenue.

Although Caruso allegedly proposed the game of Russian roulette, he never let anyone else handle the gun, instead shooting Minkler in the head, investigators allege. Police and the Clark County Coroner’s Office deemed the teen’s death a homicide.

Hours before police discovered the grisly scene late Friday, the suspects were arrested after crashing a stolen Mercedes after an officer initiated a stop in Henderson, police said. The revolver with one spent cartridge was found in the car.

Through that investigation, it wasn’t long before Harlan opened up about the nefarious crime, plainly telling detectives about it, police said.

He said the boys had gathered at an abandoned house and that Caruso pulled out the firearm, proposing they play Russian roulette, in which a single bullet is placed in a revolver, the cylinder is spun, and participants take turns self-pointing the gun and pulling the trigger.

“(Caruso) never allowed other participants to handle the firearm … or pull the trigger themselves, but rather, (Caruso) was the only person who pointed the gun and pulled the trigger,” Harlan told police.

Investigators corroborated some of the allegations when they accessed Caruso’s cellphone:

In the house, shortly before 1 Friday afternoon, Caruso films the revolver, showing there’s only one bullet inside, while mimicking a “shooting gesture.”

At 2:44 p.m. Caruso is back on camera, saying “bro, I just caught a body,” slang that police interpret as meaning someone’s killed someone. He then films Minkler’s body in various angles.

Six minutes later, one of the suspects is captured “calmly” walking to a kitchen sink, wetting his hands and cleaning his sneakers.

Police wrote in the arrest report that they were trying to identify other people they believe were present during the shooting and who fled along with the arrested duo.

Minutes later, however, Harlan said, he and Caruso returned to move the body, and attempted the clean possible DNA from the scene, police said. Investigators had found cleaning supplies, puddles of water and bloody towels.

In misleading initial statements, Caruso first blamed the shooting on someone else, but then when he was confronted with the videos, he changed the story, breaking down, admitting that he’d pulled the trigger, an accident he blamed on being high on Xanax, police said.

He then turned on Harlan, telling detectives that Harlan had taken Minkler’s wallet with about $300, which he used to buy shoes and drugs that same night, police said.

In a Facebook page that apparently belongs to Harlan, the teenager earlier this year posted a picture, pointing a handgun at the camera. In a video, Harlan is seen inside a luxury car blaring hip hop music and messing with a gun.

In the opposite spectrum, in Minkler's page, less than two weeks before he was killed, he last posted about loneliness. "I don't get asked to hang out no more," he apparently wrote. "I have people on here that don't even want to talk to me anymore."

A GoFundMe account in Minkler’s name had raised about $6,500 as of Wednesday afternoon.

Caruso is booked on a murder count and Harlan on a count each of “accessory to murder after the fact” and destroying evidence, police said. They’re being held at the Clark County Detention Center.