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Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Mom backs son’s
murder testimony:
‘Jason said Heaven
was crying’

Her deposition implicates
Richard Serrano in the death
of a 16-year-old girl

By Rod Thompson
Big Island correspondent


HILO -- Awakened after midnight, Maureen McCubbins found her nephew, Richard Damian Serrano, swearing and threatening another young man.

"What in hell is going on?" she asked.

Eventually her son, Jason, told her, "I think someone died tonight."

Serrano, 29, is on trial for kidnapping, sexual assault and murder in the 1993 death of high-school girl Sequoya Vargas, 16.

Jason McCubbins, 27, and the man allegedly threatened by Serrano, Matthew Gibbs, 26, have confessed to taking part in the attack on Vargas. They made deals for reduced charges in exchange for testifying against Serrano.

Gibbs is expected to testify today.

Jason McCubbins already testified that Serrano led an attack that consisted of getting Vargas drunk, raping her repeatedly, beating her, and finally swimming out to sea, towing her and leaving her to drown.

But defense attorney Harry Eliason pointed to discrepancies which could cast doubt on McCubbins' testimony. Eliason says McCubbins and Gibbs acted by themselves, then tried to throw the blame onto Serrano.

The testimony of Maureen McCubbins appeared to support her son's version of events.

The mother, now living in Florida, testified several weeks ago in a deposition. Her testimony was read to jurors yesterday.

In the after-midnight events of Aug. 23, 1993, she found Serrano menacing Gibbs, she said. "You want some too?" she said Serrano threatened him.

Although Gibbs was much larger than Serrano, she was worried Serrano would hurt him.

"I've never seen (Gibbs) cower down before anybody," she said.

Serrano was wearing wet shorts, and his hair was wet, she said. The comment appeared to support her son's claim that Serrano pulled Vargas into the sea.

Later, rain started falling. "Jason said Heaven was crying," she said.

When he said someone died, she told him to shut up.

But the next day, she woke up Serrano, who was sleeping at her house.

"I told him Jason told me what happened," she said.

Serrano swore at her son and pushed him. That was the last she saw of him.

A day or two later, Serrano called her from San Francisco. "Did they find anything?" he asked.

Eliason pointed out that Maureen McCubbins waited more than seven years, until weeks before Serrano's trial, to tell her account to authorities.

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