Nicole very drunk prior to alleged rape

Friday, June 23, 2006
Witness: Anna Liza Franco, victim’s stepsister

Nicole’s stepsister Anna Liza Franco took the stand today and testified that Nicole had five alcoholic drinks on a near-empty stomach before she was raped in Nov. 1 last year.

Lead private prosecutor Evalyn Ursua said this information is important because the mixture of the five drinks and Nicole’s not having had dinner was potent. She said Nicole couldn’t have consented to sex if she was that drunk.

Along with another stepsister, 12-year-old Carmela, Franco and the victim had been invited to a four-day vacation by US Navy Petty Officer 2 Christopher James Mills, who used to frequent their family canteen in Zamboanga.

On direct examination, Franco said Mills and his liberty buddy, identified only as Garcia, had taken her and Nicole to the casino and then to a night out at Neptune Club.

At the club, Mills ordered Vodka Sprite, B-52, Long Island iced tea, and Singaporean Sling, all of which were alcoholic drinks. She said Mills ordered for them because they were not familiar with the drinks.

Franco said she and her sister began feeling dizzy after the first drink. She said they only had a slice each of Yellow Cab pizza at around 6:30 p.m. that night at the Grand Leisure Hotel, where they had been staying, before going to Neptune.

She also said Nicole downed half a pitcher, which was more than a foot long and six inches wide, of Bull Frog. She said her sister was walking “pasuray-suray” after downing the Bull Frog.

After drinking, they danced, first as a group, and then she saw Nicole dancing with an American, whom she identified in the courtroom as US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

She said she saw Smith dance with Nicole thrice. She also said her sister was not dirty dancing.

Mills then went outside to attend to Garcia who had gone into trouble with shore patrol. Around this time, she said she saw Nicole walking aimlessly. She went up to Nicole and told her that they had to go home because Mills had already left.

Nicole did not respond, so Franco grabbed her hand and led her outside. She let go of Nicole once they were outside the bar and started walking to the corner of Waterfront and Taft Avenue, thinking that Nicole was following.

But when she got there, she found out that Nicole was not behind her. She saw Mills sitting on the gutter and asked him to help her find Nicole. They waited for her to arrive for 10-15 minutes before they went back to Neptune.

They looked for Nicole on the dance floor, in the comfort room, in the videoke rooms, and in the place where they had been sitting, but didn’t see her.

They also looked for her in Scuba Shack and Pier 1, also nightclubs nearby, but she was nowhere to be found. Mills suggested that she go back to her hotel and promised that he would look for Nicole himself.

At around midnight, Franco said she went out again with Carmela to go back to Neptune and look for Nicole. Mills was there talking to a guard, who told them that he had seen a Filipina being loaded into a van.

While Mills was talking to the guard, she said she went inside to talk to the receptionist to ask about Nicole. The receptionist confirmed that she also saw a morena, long-haired woman wearing a mint green shirt and blue jeans loaded into a van.

She and Carmela then went back to the hotel, hoping that Nicole would come back. At around 2 a.m., she received a phone call from the hotel manager, who told her that Nicole had been found. She went down to the lobby and saw Nicole, who was in shock and in a stupor.

Franco started breaking down while narrating how she had led her sister by the hand, but turned inconsolable at this point. She was excused by the judge but was scheduled to take the stand again for another hour on Monday.

The sisters were seen hugging each other and weeping after the hearing was adjourned, with Franco muttering “Sorry” to Nicole over and over again. Ursua said Franco blamed herself for releasing her sister’s hand when she led her out the bar earlier that night.

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