LAS VEGAS (AP) –The sister of a slain Las Vegas dancer stood in a courtroom Wednesday and cursed the man accused of strangling her only sibling and covering her naked, dismembered body in concrete.
“I hope you (expletive) rot in jail, you (expletive) for what you did to her,” Celeste Flores Narvaez screamed at defendant Jason Griffith after his arraignment on murder, battery domestic violence and destroying evidence charges.
Griffith, 32, did not enter a plea or respond to the outburst.
During the hearing, Griffith spoke only briefly to acknowledge he had reviewed the criminal complaint against him.
“Do you understand what you are being charged with?” asked Justice of the Peace Chris Lee.
“Yes,” responded Griffith, a performer at the Cirque du Soleil “Love” show at The Mirage resort-casino.
He was being held without bail and was ordered to return to court Feb. 15. He could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Debora Flores Narvaez, 31.
Griffith’s lawyer, Clark County Deputy Public Defender Abel Yanez, said his client would not speak to the district attorney’s office or police without a lawyer present.
The courtroom outburst was an unusual public display of emotion for Celeste Flores Narvaez, who temporarily relocated from Atlanta to Las Vegas to oversee the search for her younger sister after the dancer was reported missing Dec. 14.
Celeste Flores Narvaez told The Associated Press seeing Griffith in court offered little satisfaction.
“I want to handle it myself,” she said, cracking her knuckles.
She sat impatiently in the courtroom before Griffith appeared, sharing details about her sister’s funeral in a measured voice. She said she will likely return to the family’s native Puerto Rico with her sister’s body on Monday.
“I’m trying to keep it together,” she said.
But she began to sob soon after Griffith was escorted into the courtroom.
“Is that him?” she asked a reporter, before crossing the room to sit closer to the defendant.
The family will hold two memorials for Debora Flores Narvaez this week in Las Vegas, including a public ceremony Friday at the “Fantasy” burlesque show at the Luxor hotel and casino, where the dancer performed.
The victim’s body was found Saturday covered in concrete in two plastic tubs at a downtown Las Vegas home. Police said Griffith strangled her in the heat of the moment during an argument then tried to hide the evidence by sawing off her legs and storing her body in the tubs.
“It is just disgusting,” Celeste Flores Narvaez said.
She said she spoke with Griffith twice after her sister’s disappearance. Each time, she said, he told her a different version of what happened Dec. 12, when the two dancers met at Griffith’s house to watch a television show about a serial killer.
Griffith initially told police Debora Flores Narvaez left his house to attend dance rehearsal.
“Basically,” Celeste Flores Narvaez said, “he was telling lies from the get-go.”
Debora Flores Narvaez and Griffith had been dating for about a year when investigators responded to a domestic violence call involving the couple on Oct. 22, according to police records.
She told police she was pregnant with Griffith’s child when he stole her phone, pushed her to the ground, kicked her and yanked out her hair. Griffith denied hitting her.
She left Maryland, where she was a Washington Redskins ambassador, to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional dancer two years ago. Friends and family said she was happy in Las Vegas, where she performed at some of the Las Vegas Strip’s trendiest nightclubs — Haze at the Aria hotel and Jet at The Mirage, among others.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)