Michel Escoto Gets Life Sentence in Newlywed Murder Case

Escoto gets life in prison in 2002 murder of Wendy Trapaga

A South Florida man accused of murdering his newlywed wife to collect a $1 million insurance policy was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Wednesday.

Michel Escoto, 42, was found guilty last month of first-degree murder in the killing of wife Wendy Trapaga in October 2002 to collect the policy.

Wednesday's sentencing hearing featured emotional testimony from Trapaga's family, who didn't hold back their disdain for Escoto.

"You are as insignificant as roadkill," Trapaga's sister said.

"You have left a big hole in my heart," Trapaga's mother 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 just days after the couple returned from their honeymoon.

Escoto initially tried to drug her during their Key West honeymoon and make her death look like an accidental drowning, but Trapaga complained her drink was too chalky, prosecutors said.

He tried to drown her again several days later in a Jacuzzi at Miami's Executive Airport Motel, but he couldn't get her to stay under water, prosecutors said. He finally beat her to death with a tire iron outside a warehouse later that night, prosecutors said.

Escoto initially told detectives that he and Trapaga got into an argument the night she was killed. He said they left the motel and she dropped him off at their South Beach apartment before driving off. But homicide detectives were immediately suspicious of his forced grief and the large insurance policy.

Escoto eventually filed a lawsuit to collect the money but gave conflicting versions of what happened during a 2005 trial. The conflicting details led to his arrest, and he has remained in jail since then.

Escoto, who is not an attorney, represented himself during the trial, leading to awkward moments as prosecutors repeatedly raised objections. Escoto, who pleaded not guilty, was also held in contempt at one point for allegedly threatening a witness on the stand.

During Wednesday's hearing, Escoto called the pain of the victim's family "horrific" but he also accused witnesses of lying during the trial.

Dateline NBC will air their report "Mystery in South Beach" on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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