Closing arguments begin in newlywed murder trial - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Closing arguments begin in newlywed murder trial

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Wendy Trapaga Wendy Trapaga
Michel Escoto Michel Escoto

MIAMI (WSVN) -- A South Florida man accused of killing his wife for insurance money is making a final plea to a jury to acquit him.

Closing arguments started Monday morning, a month after the trial began. Michel Escoto, who had been representing himself in court, stands accused of drugging, strangling, beating and killing his wife of just four days, Wendy Trapaga, back in 2002. According to prosecutors, Escoto killed his wife so he could collect a million-dollar life insurance policy that Trapaga had named Escoto a beneficiary of.

Escoto has tried to mitigate his involvement in the murder saying that an ex-girlfriend, Yolanda Cerrilo, who received immunity in exchange for her testimony, was an accomplice in planning the murder. However, Monday morning, in closing arguments, the prosecution said Escoto is someone who has a history of using woman for his financial gain.

The prosecution said that he convinced his young wife to take a life-insurance policy, and he then killed her with a tire iron after his original plan to drug and drown her did not work out as he had planned.

"Striking her again! And again!" exclaimed prosecutor Gail Levine in closing arguments. "Cause that is who he is, and as she lied, face on the asphalt with the abrasions on her face, taking the elongated metallic object pushing down on her so that she has that mark down across her neck and then ... hit her again and again, eleven times."

The defense attacked the ex-girlfriend's testimony. "That story has no reliability," said defense attorney Terry Lenamon. "Not one ounce of reliability."

The defense told the jury to instead focus on DNA evidence, which the defense said, could open the door for reasonable doubt. "How she got up here and said that DNA doesn't matter I don't know," said Lenamon. "Because what I heard the evidence was, was that on the dress there were three male DNA."

Lenamon will be taking over for Escoto, who had been representing himself throughout the entire trial, to give the closing arguments. "You can laugh at Mr. Escoto all day but not at me," said Lenamon.

The state will then have a chance for rebuttal.

The jury will return Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. and go into deliberations.

Escoto faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of first-degree murder.


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