Prosecutors: Man killed adoptive mother to conceal sex assault
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Prosecutors released new details as they laid out their case against a South Florida man accused of killing the woman who adopted him, a crime they argue was committed to cover up her rape.
On day two of 23-year-old Gerard Lopes Belmonte's murder trial, crime scene investigators released bag after bag of evidence, including bloody clothes found dumped in a nearby trash can and items found inside the home that prove, according to prosecutors, that there was a struggle between Lopes Belmonte and his adoptive mother, 43-year-old Natalie Belmonte.
Lopes Belmonte is accused of beating his adoptive mother, strangling and then suffocating her to death in 2011. According to authorities, the adoptive mother and son had gone to a party earlier that night and had returned to her Pembroke Pines residence about 2:30 a.m. Security video shows the two of them entering a store before they headed to the party. Whereas Belmonte was wearing a black dress, her adopted son was wearing a white T-shirt and plaid shorts.
On Tuesday morning, blood splatter specialists showed pictures of the inside of Belmonte's room. In it, they said, it showed blood splatter and signs of a struggle that was low to the ground. They also said the pictures showed someone tried to clean up the mess with Clorox and other disinfectants.
Belmonte's father left the courtroom once pictures of her lifeless body were shown. "She was found lying on her back, partially clothed with her clothes bunched around her torso area," Detective Rich Engels, of the Broward Sheriff's Office said. "She was heavily decomposed with insect infestation in the mouth and eye area."
Lopes Belmonte sat expressionless as the pictures were shown to the court by prosecutors.
Prosecutors also called a Pembroke Pines detective to the stand to go over surveillance video that allegedly captured Lopes Belmonte carrying the body and stuffing it into the trunk of a car. "This is two bags, white plastic bags by the driver's side rear tire, and a person by the trunk of the vehicle," said Pembroke Pines Police Detective Steve Wetterer looking at images presented by prosecutor Adriana Alcalde-Padron. "This was 6:22:42 seconds a.m., and this is a person by the trunk and the bags that were previously there are now no longer there."
"There is no doubt that after you hear all the evidence that the state is presenting, that the defendant strangled her, beat her, killed her and threw her away with no penitence ... like if she was garbage," said Alcalde-Padron during her opening statement Monday.
Police believed Lopes Belmonte tried to clean up the crime scene and dump the evidence at a nearby Publix. "That's the dumpster area, and the bags that were on the ground," Engels said. "Photograph inside the dumpster showing bag number four, closeup of the contents of the bag."
Investigators said Belmonte had adopted the accused when he was 10 years old, after his father, who was her uncle, had died. "She took him in when he had no one, and she gave him a home, a family," said Alcalde-Padron.
Authorities said the victim suffered blunt force trauma to her face, and that parts of her scalp were peeled back when first responders found her body. Prosecutors stated there was so much blood at the scene that it seeped through her vehicle. "Blood was falling so much from that trunk that it seeps onto the driveway," said Alcalde-Padron.
The prosecutor added that Lopes Belmonte's plaid shorts were covered in his adoptive mother's blood. "What are those shorts covered in? You're going to hear that those shorts are drenched in her blood," said Alcalde-Padron as the biological children of the deceased, who were in attendance, listened on.
Police said Belmonte was found with no underwear in a swamp area, about a mile from her home. They also discovered Lopes' semen inside her body, something the presiding judge has allowed the prosecution to include in the case.
One of Lopes Belmonte's attorneys was excused after the detective on the case said he overheard the defendant telling her that he would take the stand and tell everyone that their relationship was sexual and that it was consensual. "At this point, given the review of the evidence, you've got here in what you're going to hear, keep an open mind when you hear all of the evidence," said a defense attorney.
The attorney who was dismissed will become a witness and will take the stand to clarify what her client said to her. Natalie's biological children will also testify for the prosecution to establish the relationship between their mother and Lopes Belmonte. They claim she treated him like just like one of her other children.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.
(Copyright 2013 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)