Jury hears details of senseless murder

17-year-old testifies that she stabbed victim before accomplice shot her

KINGMAN - Veronica Bravo, 17, of Kingman testified in a jury trial against Raymond Carlton on Wednesday, telling a 14-member jury Carlton is the one who killed 19-year-old Christina Buus last year outside Kingman along U.S. 93.

Carlton, 23, also of Kingman, is charged with first-degree murder and could serve up to life in prison if convicted.

Bravo, who was in the back seat, admitted she stabbed Buus from behind with a knife while Carlton drove Buus's Jeep southbound to Kingman on U.S. 93 on July 18, 2005. After Bravo stabbed Buus several times, Carlton pulled out his gun and shot Buus in the face while she was bleeding but still conscious, Bravo said. Carlton then drove to an unpaved road and they threw Buus's body behind some bushes.

Bravo admitted they both used methamphetamine before committing the crime.

Testifying in the jury trial was part of Bravo's commitment to the state when she accepted a plea offer last month. Under the agreement, the county attorney's office downgraded her first-degree murder charge to attempted murder, a Class 2 felony, and she agreed to testify in Carlton's trial. Bravo got 21 years in prison without the possibility of parole from the deal.

Bravo told the jury that to get a less severe sentence was not the reason she agreed to testify against Carlton. Her real intention is to bring justice to the case, she said.

"Someone might think I'm a coward … but I know I did something wrong, and it really takes me to testify to get him justice. I know this is the right thing (to do)," Bravo said.

Bravo contacted detectives from the Mohave County Attorney's Office in June and offered to tell them what she knew about the case. Her insistence on talking to detectives apparently angered her attorney, who said Bravo could get a better deal if she could hold out longer.

The attorney dropped out of the case and a new attorney was appointed for her by the court.

Bravo told the jury she talked to Sheriff's detectives three times, and she lied or only told them part of the truth in the first two interviews. The third interview conducted this June was nothing but the truth, she said.

She said she believes in God, and she felt like God urged her to come forward to tell the truth and bring justice to the victim and defendant.

Asked by Deputy County Attorney Lee Jantzen whether she hated Carlton, Bravo, who appeared to be in great sorrow and in tears from time to time throughout her testimony, suddenly lost control emotionally.

"I love him, and I love him so much … he was my everything … he was the only one I knew would take care of me and bring me friends," Bravo said as she sobbed.

Defense attorney Rick Williams did not get the chance to question Bravo on Wednesday due to the time-consuming jury selection in the morning and early afternoon. He was scheduled to question Bravo this morning.

In his opening statement, Williams told the jury that there was not enough evidence to prove his client was the one who really committed the murder.

He said his client might be guilty, but only for the use of methamphetamine, a Class 6 felony.

He strongly questioned Bravo's personality, reminding jury members it was Bravo, not his client, who has a record of violence. Bravo had been placed in juvenile probation for drug use and fighting.

Williams said Bravo talked to Sheriff's detectives three different occasions, but each time she offered a different description of what happened that day. As a person who contradicted herself over time, her testimony might not be reliable, Williams suggested.

Fourteen selected jury members heard the testimony Wednesday. Two of them will be randomly dismissed on the last day of the trial.

Lots of family members and friends of Bravo, Buus and Carlton showed up at the trial on Wednesday. Some of them could not hold their tears back when Bravo described to the jury how she and Carlton stabbed and killed Buss.

Crying echoed from time to time inside the crowded courtroom.

The trial continues today in Judge Steven Conn's court.