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Rowcroft case goes to jury deliberations

Jury wants witness testimony replayed in Kmart theft case

Posted: Friday, November 14, 2003

Jurors deciding the fate of the man accused of stealing nearly $100,000 from Kmart last year want testimony from two witnesses replayed this morning before returning to deliberations.

Frank Brian Rowcroft is charged with first-degree theft in connection with the crime, discovered on March 31, 2002. The case went to the jury Thursday afternoon.

Rowcroft had been the loss-prevention supervisor at the now-closed store at the time of the theft.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner opened his case Nov. 4 by comparing the Easter morning crime to the insider casino heist in the movie "Oceans 11." He finished his closing arguments Thursday by telling jurors that another cinematic reference might be more appropriate.

"Show me the money," he said, holding up more than $30,000 seized from Rowcroft's car by U.S. Customs near Skagway on May 3, 2002.

The money, he said, connects Rowcroft to the Kmart theft.

If they believe Rowcroft had the stolen Kmart money and didn't care whether it was stolen, he is guilty of theft regardless of whether they believe he took it from the safe, Gardner argued, recalling instructions Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins read to them earlier Thursday.

Defense attorney Louis Menendez told jurors during his closing they should have a problem with Gardner not being able to make up his mind about why Rowcroft is guilty.

He told them to took at the security videotapes from the store.

Although the tapes were tampered with and do not show who took the money from the safe, he said a careful analysis shows that the money was taken hours before the staged power outage. Gardner argued the outage covered up the theft.

The prosecution's case is one of speculation, he argued.

"There is no money. There is no trail," he said. He suggested Rowcroft is the victim of police thinking, "We've got to blame somebody for this."

In a note to Collins Thursday, jurors indicated they wanted to go home at 5 p.m. after about four hours of deliberation. They also said they wanted to listen to the recorded testimony of the two women who worked in the cash cage, handling money that went into the Kmart safe.

Collins said both testimonies would be replayed in their entirety this morning.

Although Menendez rested his case Thursday without calling his client to the stand, Gardner argued that Rowcroft's statements demonstrate his guilt.

He prepared a poster board with Rowcroft's picture on it and cartoon balloons showing things Rowcroft wrote before and after the theft.

The notes were seized in September 2002 after Rowcroft reported a shooting at his home.

One was addressed to the lead investigator of the Kmart theft. After a disrespectful opening, Rowcroft wrote that the officer "got lucky" and "cheated."

Rowcroft also directed the officer to ask his Kmart supervisor in Anchorage about "his cut."

Gardner said about $68,000 in cash was taken along with checks and credit receipts. Rowcroft's then-fiancé, Alia McAlister, testified that Rowcroft brought home between $40,000 and $47,000 about a month after the theft.

Gardner argued that a cut, or percentage, would have accounted for the difference in the cash taken from the safe and the money Rowcroft brought home. Rowcroft's spending would explain why there was about $30,0000 left.

And only a guilty person would know about a cut, Gardner said.

Menendez offered different interpretations for each of the statements.

He disputed whether Rowcroft had access to the room with the safe. Even if he did, the prosecution only showed that Rowcroft could have learned the combination by training his security cameras on the lock, Menendez said.

"Nobody's ever said my client ever had the combination to anything," Menendez said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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