Mark Cardilli Jr. shot Isahak Muse twice in the back. The muzzle of the gun was right up against the fabric of Muse’s jacket. The bullets tore through Muse’s torso and killed him.

Isahak Muse

Forensic pathologists for both the state and the defense have agreed on those facts during their testimony at Cardilli’s non-jury murder trial this week at the Cumberland County Courthouse. Maine Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Flomenbaum testified to that Monday while prosecutors made their case, and Dr. Jonathan Arden seconded those findings when the defense called him as an expert witness Thursday.

Cardilli originally told police he thought he shot Muse in the chest, and he first estimated they were standing 5 to 6 feet apart.

While agreeing that the shots struck Muse in his back, the two sides used the same forensic evidence Wednesday to advance different theories about the final moments of Muse’s life and the positions of the two men during the fatal shooting.

Defense attorney Matt Nichols suggested they were standing face to face when Cardilli fired the first of three shots. Muse brought his hand up to his face, and the bullet grazed his finger and eyebrow. Nichols theorized that Muse then twisted away from Cardilli, so the next two shots hit him in the back. He said Cardilli later told police he could have been closer to Muse at the time of the shooting.

Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis described a different scenario. While he also suggested the first shot missed Muse and caused the graze wounds, Ellis proposed that Muse was trying to turn and run, and he was falling to the floor as the next shots hit him. Ellis said a divot in the floor is from a bullet and supports the state’s theory, but the defense has said the investigators didn’t do enough tests of that mark to be sure.


Arden said both scenarios are possible. “The medical examiner or forensic pathologist doesn’t divine what happened,” he said.

Justice Nancy Mills watches Thursday as one of the defense witnesses, a forensic pathologist, shows her where the bullets fired by Mark Cardilli Jr. entered Isahak Muse’s body. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills said she expected Friday to be the final day of the trial. The defense will call its last witnesses, and the state will have the chance to bring Flomenbaum back to the stand to rebut the defense forensic expert. Arden was the only witness to take the stand Thursday because of scheduling conflicts.

It is not yet clear whether Cardilli will testify. But the court already has heard from his sister and his mother, and both Suzanne and Chelsey Cardilli described a chaotic family altercation before the fatal shooting.

Chelsey Cardilli, 18, was in a relationship with Muse at the time. She was the first witness called by the state, and she recounted racist comments her brother made in recent years, including derogatory statements about people who are from Somalia and who are Muslim. Muse was a black Muslim man from a Somali family, and the Cardillis are white. She also testified that she did not see the fatal shots because she was yelling at her father to take the gun.

Suzanne Cardilli, 56, testified Wednesday for the defense. She initially told police her cellphone wouldn’t work when she tried to call 911 during the fight, but she said on the witness stand that Muse hit her hand while she was holding the phone and attempting to dial. At one point, she testified that she was no longer sure about her memory. Suzanne Cardilli eventually ran to a neighbor’s house for help, and she was not inside her own home when her son fired the gun.

The defense attorneys have indicated that they plan plan to call Mark Cardilli Sr. While the father has not yet testified, the judge saw a short surveillance video from the first hours after the shooting, when he tells his son he thought the weapon was an Airsoft gun.

The defendant’s mother and sister have joined the large audience since their testimony, although they have not been sitting together.

Mills hasn’t given a timeline for when she will render a verdict.

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