Resident witnessed beating but failed to call police or show up to court

A man who failed to call the police after witnessing his neighbor bludgeoned and dragged into the garage has no regrets, he said.

“Looking back on it now, I’d do exactly what I did then. I couldn’t see. I wasn’t Superman,” said Larry Pope, outside a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday. Pope, who was brought to court by police after twice failing to show up, took the stand Wednesday in the trial of Richard Carelli and Michelle Pinkerton, both 38, who are charged in the Sept. 22, 2007 beating death of 49-year-old housemate

Leonard “Milo” Hoskins in his Mission Terrace home. Carelli is charged with murder and Pinkerton as an accessory to murder.

The case prompted public outrage, both for Pope’s failure to call authorities and for a series of blunders by police. Officers allowed Carelli and Pinkerton drive away while being questioned and failed to search Carelli’s van – which sat in a police impound yard for a week with Hoskins’ body inside.  Mexican authorities arrested the couple in April in Baja California.

On Wednesday, a cooperative Pope was the  star witness for the prosecution, describing the brutal seven to 12 minute attack that left Hoskins dead.

Pope said he was taking a smoke break from caring for his ailing mother when he heard Carelli call Hoskins a “bitch.” Hoskins was wedged between his car and the garage door and Carelli was blocking his path, he said.

Pope said he watched as Carelli grabbed a 4-foot board off Hoskins’ car and struck him in the head “like it was a baseball,” Pope testified.  As a stunned Hoskins raised his hands to his head, Carelli dragged him into the garage, according to Pope.

Pope said he saw the garage door vibrate several times and heard what sounded like a metal pipe hitting skin and bone as a woman screamed. A bloody Carelli appeared in the doorway, and Pope said he assumed Hoskins had won the fight.

Five minutes later, Pinkerton walked over Pope and invited him to a Christmas prime rib dinner, he said. It was the first time the two had spoken.

“I took it for granted she was talking about my last dinner and I flatly denied her,” Pope testified.

Pathologist Judy Melinek of the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office testified that Hoskins likely died of a combination of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. His body was found in a sleeping bag wrapped with duct tape in Carelli’s van.

Ureena Hopkins, the victim’s sister, said she had spoken privately with Pope and harbors no hard feelings toward him. Hopkins said she was angry, however, watching Pinkerton and Carelli laugh and talk with each other during breaks.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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