Jury issues guilty verdict in newlywed murder trial - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Jury issues guilty verdict in newlywed murder trial

Posted: Updated:
Michel Escoto being finger printed after being found guilty of first-degree meditated murder. Michel Escoto being finger printed after being found guilty of first-degree meditated murder.

MIAMI (WSVN) -- A jury has found a South Florida man accused of murdering his newlywed wife guilty of first-degree murder.

The jury issued its verdict Tuesday afternoon after two and a half hours of deliberations. They found 42-year-old Michel Escoto, who acted as his own defense attorney, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2002 death of his wife of only four days, Wendy Trapaga. The conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.

Prosecutor Gail Levine said, "We're happy for Wendy today."

Surrounded by loved ones, Myriam Benitez, Trapaga's mother, closed her eyes and said a prayer. Trapaga's family embraced as they left court shortly after the verdict was announced.

Escoto was not able to convince the jury even after defense attorney Terry Lenamon took over the case for closing arguments on Monday. "He didn't do a super poor job of managing his case, he did a super poor job of presenting his case," said Lenamon.

Lenamon said Escoto incriminated himself. "The jury selection process would have been much different, Yolanda Cerrillo's cross examination," said Lenamon as he added he would have made different choices, but Escoto would not give up control. "His personality is that this guy has serious, serious issues when it comes to obsessive compulsive control."

Escoto was found guilty of drugging, strangling, beating and killing Trapaga. "I think he kinda felt it was coming," said Lenamon.

Escoto was fingerprinted and handcuffed in court as a convicted murderer.

For more than a month, Escoto put on a show, questioning witnesses and defending himself in his own murder trial. "He is obnoxious," said a prosecutor.

"I'm not afraid of him," said Levine one day after Escoto was held in contempt of court for threatening a witness.

According to prosecutors, Escoto killed his 21-year-old wife so he could collect a million-dollar life insurance policy of which his newlywed wife had named him a beneficiary. They said Escoto 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.

Escoto had tried to mitigate his involvement in the murder by saying that an ex-girlfriend, Yolanda Cerrillo, who received immunity in exchange for her testimony, was an accomplice in planning the murder.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, the jury found Escoto guilty. "I love the justice system," a juror told reporters as he left the courthouse.

"I think that he thought that he was more qualified," said Lenamon, "that he could put in the absolute most time to the case, and that he was the one who was going to manage the case the way he wanted to manage the case."

"I'm not saying that I could have done any better of a job," Lenamon continued, "but clearly, based on what happened over the last six or seven weeks, it didn't work out for Mr. Escoto the way that he wanted it to."

Sentencing has been scheduled for May 7. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez said the families of Escoto and Trapaga will have the opportunity to make any statements they wish on that date.


  • On Deco DriveMore>>

  • Maxi Priest

    Maxi Priest

    Thursday, August 21 2014 8:44 PM EDT2014-08-22 00:44:55 GMT
    It's all about the seven year itch for Maxi Priest. That's how long its been since the Reggae singer has released an album, but he got those creative juices flowing and he's back with "Easy to Love."
    It's all about the seven year itch for Maxi Priest. That's how long its been since the Reggae singer has released an album, but he got those creative juices flowing and he's back with "Easy to Love."
  • If I Stay

    If I Stay

    Thursday, August 21 2014 11:04 AM EDT2014-08-21 15:04:24 GMT
    If I Stay is based on a best seller. Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a teen cellist facing tough choices, both here and in the space between life and death. Chloe and her co-star Jamie Blackley are telling Deco: bring some tissues, it's a tear jerker.
    If I Stay is based on a best seller. Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a teen cellist facing tough choices, both here and in the space between life and death. Chloe and her co-star Jamie Blackley are telling Deco: bring some tissues, it's a tear jerker.

  • Sin City

    Sin City

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 8:28 PM EDT2014-08-20 00:28:47 GMT
    Kindness and charm, unlike the people that live in Sin City, and i'm not talking about Vegas either. Things have changed in the town of Sin as in the motion picture while others have stayed the same. The cast of the movie told Deco what's new in part two.?
    Kindness and charm, unlike the people that live in Sin City, and i'm not talking about Vegas either. Things have changed in the town of Sin as in the motion picture while others have stayed the same. The cast of the movie told Deco what's new in part two.?
  • NationalMore>>

  • Ice bucket challenge goes awry, firefighters hurt

    Ice bucket challenge goes awry, firefighters hurt

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:15 AM EDT2014-08-22 09:15:14 GMT
    A charity stunt that has grown into a social media phenomenon went terribly wrong for four Kentucky firefighters when a fire truck's ladder got too close to a power line after they dumped water on college...
    A charity stunt that has grown into a social media phenomenon went terribly wrong for four Kentucky firefighters when a fire truck's ladder got too close to a power line after they dumped water on college students who...
  • After emotional day, former governor back on stand

    After emotional day, former governor back on stand

    Friday, August 22 2014 4:54 AM EDT2014-08-22 08:54:42 GMT
    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who says that at one time he got in the habit of working late to escape his wife's wrath, has once again taken refuge - this time at the rectory in St. Patrick's Catholic...
    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who says that at one time he got in the habit of working late to escape his wife's wrath, has once again taken refuge - this time at the rectory in St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
  • American Ebola doc urges help fighting outbreak

    American Ebola doc urges help fighting outbreak

    Friday, August 22 2014 4:35 AM EDT2014-08-22 08:35:14 GMT
    As one of few Ebola survivors with medical expertise, Dr. Kent Brantly seems keenly aware of the position his painful experience has put him in. He hasn't spoken yet about his plans, but spent much of his first...
    As one of few Ebola survivors with medical expertise, Dr. Kent Brantly seems keenly aware of the position his painful experience has put him in. He hasn't spoken yet about his plans, but spent much of his first public...
  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Elderly woman accused of hit-and-run, road rage

    Elderly woman accused of hit-and-run, road rage

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:53 AM EDT2014-08-22 09:53:24 GMT
    MIAMI -- Miami Police officers were seen detaining an elderly woman accused of trying to run down a motorcyclist after she allegedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run.
    MIAMI -- Miami Police officers were seen detaining an elderly woman accused of trying to run down a motorcyclist after she allegedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run.

  • 1 arrested after boating GPS units stolen, 1 at large

    1 arrested after boating GPS units stolen, 1 at large

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:46 AM EDT2014-08-22 09:46:48 GMT
    KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Authorities are searching for one of two men accused of stealing GPS units from boats, early Friday morning.
    KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Authorities are searching for one of two men accused of stealing GPS units from boats, early Friday morning.
  • Stolen Big Rig recovered thanks to GPS

    Stolen Big Rig recovered thanks to GPS

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:33 AM EDT2014-08-22 09:33:54 GMT
    NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. -- A stolen Big Rig was recovered after the truck's owner tracked the thief's every move thanks to GPS technology.
    NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. -- A stolen Big Rig was recovered after the truck's owner tracked the thief's every move thanks to GPS technology.

Powered by WorldNow

WSVN-TV
Sunbeam Television Corp
1401 79th Street Causeway
Miami, FL 33141

Switchboard: (305) 751-6692
Newsroom: (305) 795-2777

Can't find something?
Connect with us here:
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WSVN. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.