Jurors reached a verdict in the murder trial of Florida man Luis Alberto Toledo: guilty on all counts. The defendant faced a second-degree murder charge for killing Yessenia Suarez and two first-degree murder charges for killing 8-year-old Michael Otto and 9-year-old Thalia Otto. There was also a count of tampering with physical evidence. Prosecutors say he killed the victims on Oct. 23, 2013, and that he successfully hid the bodies.
Toledo now faces the death penalty, and is already asking for it. He told this to the judge after the verdict, but the judge said they will discuss it later.
— LawNewz Network (@LawNewzNetwork) October 27, 2017
The penalty phase is scheduled for Wednesday, 9 a.m. EST. The same jurors will decide between execution or a life sentence.
In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Mark Johnson said that Toledo killed Suarez over an affair she had, and murdered the children to make sure there were no witnesses. The defendant hid the bodies, and cleaned up the crime scene, Johnson said. He argued that testimony showed that Toledo acted guilty by wiping down Suarez’s Honda Accord at Publix shortly after the murders, throwing the children’s personal items and a blood-stained trunk mat into a dumpster, and later throwing a knife out of his car. Though investigators could not find the bodies, there was still proof of death because no one has seen from Suarez and the children ever since.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Deen said that proof of death did not equate to proof of murder. Toledo may have had the motivation to kill, but this did not prove intent. The state didn’t have enough evidence, Deen argued. For example, investigators didn’t know when the deaths precisely occurred. Toledo supposedly hid the bodies alone, and cleaned the house in a handful of hours, but Deen suggested that this was too much for Toledo to do by himself.
“What is the point of this? I’m asking. They have to tell you,” Deen said, referring to the state’s burden of proof.