The log from Suzanne Cardilli’s cellphone shows a jumbled string of numbers from an attempted call at 1:42 a.m. on March 16.

She read them out loud on the witness stand in the Cumberland County Courthouse on Wednesday, the third day of her son’s murder trial: “9-1-1-4-4-1-7-7-7-7-7.”

Isahak Muse Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Minutes after that attempted emergency phone call, 25-year-old Mark Cardilli Jr. shot and killed 22-year-old Isahak Muse, his sister’s boyfriend. Cardilli’s mother was the second family member to testify this week about the fatal altercation in the family home last spring. Her son has said he was acting in defense of himself and his home, but the state has said he did not have the right to use deadly force under Maine law.

The state rested its case Tuesday, and the defense called Suzanne Cardilli as a witness Wednesday. She was in the house during the verbal and physical fight that night, but she ran to a neighbor’s house to get help and did not see the shooting. She contradicted some testimony by the only other family member to take the stand so far – daughter Chelsey Cardilli, who was 17 years old and dating Muse at the time of the shooting. But Suzanne Cardilli also muddied some of her own earlier statements about that night, including her account of the attempted 911 call.

Maine does allow people to use deadly force in defense of themselves or their homes, but those areas of the law are nuanced. While the statute does not necessarily require a person to first try to contact police in those circumstances, the defense team has tried to bolster its case by accusing Muse of obstructing a 911 call.

Suzanne Cardilli, 56, testified Wednesday that Muse knocked her phone out of her hand when she tried to call 911. She then ran to the neighbor’s house, where footage from a surveillance camera on the Cardilli home showed that her phone was in her hand.


“When I was trying to do it, Isahak said, ‘What are you doing?” she said. “And I didn’t say anything. He tried to get it out of my hand. He hit it out of my hand, and that’s when I left out the door.”

The defense team showed photos taken at the police station of bruises on her right hand, saying Muse caused those marks when he hit her phone.

But the prosecutors played clips from her initial interview with police in the hours after the shooting. At that time, she said Muse tried to grab the phone but she denied him. In other moments, she said she could not get the 911 call to go through on her phone, and she did not know what caused the bruises on her hand.

“He tried to grab it, and I said no,” Suzanne Cardilli said in one clip. “I tried to call 911, and the call did not go through,” she said in another.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin tried to use those discrepancies to cast doubt on the mother’s testimony. At one point, Robbin asked Suzanne Cardilli whether her memory of the shooting was more clear during her police interview.

“I don’t know about my memory anymore,” Suzanne Cardilli replied.


Meanwhile, the defense attorneys tried to use the mother’s testimony to discredit her daughter’s assertion that Muse had permission to stay over on the night he was killed.

Mark Cardilli Jr. stands with his attorneys Monday, the first day of his trial in the death of Isahak Muse. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Suzanne Cardilli, like her daughter, described tension in the house in the months before the shooting. The parents and teenage girl often clashed over her relationship with and visits from Muse. The mother recounted one instance when she found Muse hiding under her daughter’s bed, and another night when he climbed through a basement window to join a group of her friends.

Suzanne Cardilli said she had given permission for him to visit and even spend the night in the past, even when her husband disagreed. But she testified that she never gave Muse permission to stay over on the night he was fatally shot, even though Chelsey Cardilli testified that her mother did. The defense attorneys had questioned the teenager about that statement Monday because it also differed from her police interview.

Suzanne Cardilli said Muse pleaded with her to allow him to stay overnight, but she told him to leave. She also described her husband and son telling him to leave. Defense attorney Matt Nichols always followed those statements with the same question.

“Did he leave?” he asked.

“No,” she answered.

The trial will continue Thursday.

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