SCHENECTADY -- Tarchand Lall repeatedly denied knowing anything about the murder of Charles Dembrosky, a man whom he referred to as his son when questioned by police in January 2017.
A video of the interrogation was shown to a Schenectady County Court jury Thursday, the fifth day of testimony in Lall's trial on charges that he hired two hit men to kill Dembrosky in November 2016.
In the recording, detectives Mari Fragoso and Ryan Maloney are heard informing Lall that a phone number with a 484 area code was found in Dembrosky's cellphone call record, with a time stamp just moments before he died. They then told Lall that his phone recorded a call from the same phone number just moments after Dembrosky was killed.
Fragoso also said the number appeared in Lall's phone log approximately 15 times between Oct. 22 and Nov. 19, the day Dembrosky was gunned down outside his home. The phone records led the detectives to believe Lall knew about Dembrosky's murder -- and who carried it out.
In the recording, Lall is heard saying he didn’t know who the 484 number belonged to, and he suggests it could have been a prospective tenant inquiring about one of the rental properties he owned.
The murder occurred just after Lall secured a $150,000 life insurance policy on Dembrosky, who had done construction work for Lall. Lall was named as the beneficiary of the policy.
Prosecutors have previously said Lall was facing significant financial problems.
Lall is heard repeatedly asserting throughout the interview that he did not know who the caller was, even after Fragoso and Maloney impressed upon him that his answers didn’t make sense.
“Don’t tell me it’s your tenant,” Fragoso is heard saying. “Why is a tenant going to call you at 1:37 in the morning after [Dembrosky] is killed?”
“I would let you know, but I don’t know,” Lall answered. “I swear to you that I don’t know.”
Lall also insists on the tape that he had nothing to do with Dembrosky’s death.
“I would never do something like that to Chuck,” he is heard saying.
The detectives then asked Lall about Dembrosky's mental state before the murder, and how he was doing financially.
Lall told the detectives he had conversations with Dembrosky about suicide, but that Dembrosky never told him he planned to kill himself.
Detectives then asked about Dembrosky’s use of illegal drugs. Lall said he once saw Dembrosky sniff “white powder." Lall said there would be times he would give Dembrosky money, but most of it would be quickly spent on drugs.
Detectives asked Lall if Dembrosky had any drug debts. Lall said Dembrosky would tell him he owed people money, but that he wouldn’t say for what or to whom he owed money.
Fragoso took the witness stand Thursday to testify about the interview shown to the jury.
Cheryl Coleman, Lall’s attorney, asked Fragoso how the detective learned of Dembrosky’s drug debts.
Fragoso said the information came from interviews during the course of her investigation.
Detectives also asked Lall how he was doing financially. Lall said he was doing fine but was experiencing some issues.
Later in the interview, Maloney asked Lall what Lall would think if he knew Maloney had just taken out a life insurance policy on someone who was killed, and that Maloney stood to benefit from it.
“I don’t need any money,” Lall responded.
Maloney then asked Lall what he would think if he were "on the outside looking in” at the circumstances of Dembrosky’s death.
“You think I would know something,” Lall said.
Lall is currently facing a charge of first-degree murder for his alleged role in Dembrosky's death. He is also facing a second-degree criminal solicitation charge that accuses him of trying to hire a fellow inmate to kill Chad Raymond, who also used to do construction work for Lall. Raymond had a $250,000 life insurance policy, of which Lall was also a beneficiary.
Lall’s trial comes after Joevany Luna and Kyshaan Moore were convicted in May of killing Dembrosky.
Luna is serving a sentence of life in prison, and Moore is serving a 25-year sentence for driving Luna to Schenectady from Delaware to commit the murder.
Prosecutors were able to prove their case against Luna and Moore using cellphone records, data from license plate readers, street surveillance cameras and wiretaps. That evidence created a digital record of the crime as it was planned and executed.
Some of that evidence revealed that the last three calls made to Dembrosky’s phone were from a number investigators eventually tied to Luna.
A visibly agitated Luna made a brief appearance in court on Thursday, where he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions.
Judge Matthew Sypniewski asked if he was exercising his Fifth Amendment rights no matter what questions would be asked.
“I’m not answering any question,” Luna said.
The trial is scheduled to resume on Friday.