Defendant Represents Himself in Newlywed Murder Trial

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The trial of a South Florida man accused of murdering his wife to collect a $1 million life insurance policy continued Monday. Steve Litz reports (Published Monday, Mar 24, 2014)

    A South Florida man accused of killing his wife to collect a $1 million life insurance policy continued to represent himself Tuesday in court.

    Michel Escoto, charged with first-degree murder in the October 2002 killing of Wendy Trapaga, seemed to stumble through the legal process as he spoke in court.

    At one point, Escoto asked the judge for legal advice.

    "It creates a nightmare logistically and a nightmare on appeal," said attorney Mark Eiglarsh about the process. "The ability to create reasonable doubt and cross examine someone is an art form. You don't learn that sitting in a jail cell."

    Prosecutors say Escoto bludgeoned his 21-year-old wife to death after just four days of marriage. The victim's mother, Miriam Benitez, told the court Friday she questioned why the newlyweds needed the life insurance plan, which was purchased just days before the murder. Benitez said she found out the value of that policy on the night of her daughter's funeral.

    "If I had known previously that it was a million I would have not stayed still," she said.

    The body of Trapaga, 21, was found next to a trash bin at a warehouse parking lot between the Palmetto Expressway and Miami Springs, according to The Miami Herald. Escoto's ex-girlfriend admitted to prosecutors in 2011 that she helped Escoto plan the murder, the Herald reported.

    When Escoto asked if Benitez feared for her daughter's life, she said she couldn't believe it.

    "I never thought that you would be capable of something like that, you were her husband," she said.