Michel Escoto Cross Examines Former Girlfriend in Newlywed Murder Trial - NBC 6 South Florida

Michel Escoto Cross Examines Former Girlfriend in Newlywed Murder Trial

The trial of Michel Escoto continued Wednesday.



    Michel Escoto Cross Examines Former Girlfriend in Newlywed Murder Trial (Published Thursday, March 27, 2014)

    Every day in his trial, Michel Escoto shows why it's a bad idea to represent yourself instead of hiring a lawyer when you're charged with a serious crime.

    At one point, Escoto literally tripped himself up, almost knocking the podium into the jury box. Then he seemed to stumble verbally, because in his questioning of the state's star witness, Escoto seemed to implicate himself in the murder over and over again.

    "You called me from the crime scene?" he asked former girlfriend Yolanda Cerillo.

    "Yes," she replied, in one of a series of questions that showed he was at the crime scene of which he was asking.

    Escoto, acting as his own attorney, was cross-examining Cerillo, who admitted to prosecutors in 2011 that she helped Escoto plan the murder.

    "As you sit here today, was I covered in blood, is that your testimony?" Escoto asked.

    "Yes, you had a lot of blood on you," Cerillo replied.

    Prosecutors gave Cerillo immunity in exchange for her testimony against Escoto. She told an incredible tale of how Escoto planned to kill his newlywed wife, 21-year-old Wendy Trapaga, to collect $1 million of insurance money on a policy he took out just after their marriage so that he could then get back together with Cerillo.

    Trapaga was killed just four days after their hasty wedding. Cerillo detailed how she allegedly helped Escoto plan the killing, picked him up at the murder scene and helped him get rid of the murder weapon, a bloody tire iron.

    "I had to say everything, that's it, it's over, no more secrets, no more. It's done. Was I scared? Yes. Did she give me immunity again? Yes. It doesn't stop the fear. It doesn't stop how bad I feel. Nothing stops that," Cerillo said on the witness stand.

    Escoto's awkward questioning drew so many objections, prosecutor Gail Levine finally snapped when the jury was out of the room.

    "It is obnoxious," thundered Levine to the judge, "that he sits in front of this court, says he wants to represent himself, says he knows the rules and then flies in the face of this court time and again because to him, he thinks the rules don't apply!"

    It appeared Escoto was trying to shift the blame to a jealous Cerillo.

    "I hated what she stood for. I didn't know who she was. I hated the whole situation. I hated that you left. I hated that she was pregnant, then she wasn't pregnant..." Cerillo trailed off as she cried softly.

    "And did you wish she was dead?" asked Escoto.

    "I wished she would go away," replied Cerillo.

    The trial continues Thursday. The jury has still not heard from the detectives who investigated the murder, nor have they heard from a jailhouse snitch to whom Escoto allegedly confessed the crime.

    The jury did hear today that Escoto allegedly smoked a lot of pot and even grew his own marijuana. That information only came out because Escoto asked Cerillo a question about it, thus opening up the topic for the prosecutor to pounce.