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Deliberations are scheduled to start Friday in the trial of Luis Alberto Toledo. Jury instructions are set to start at 8:30 a.m. EST.
Prosecutors claim Toledo committed the second-degree murder of his wife Yessenia Suarez, and the first-degree murders of her 8-year-old son Michael Otto, and her 9-year-old daughter Thalia Otto. This defendant is also charged with tampering with physical evidence because he allegedly covered up the crime. He faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the children’s deaths, but the judge is letting jurors consider several lesser offenses.
Does the state have enough evidence to reach a conviction on all three deaths? Did the defense do enough to get a not guilty verdict on all counts or, failing that, save Toledo from execution?
In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Mark Johnson said that interview footage, forensic evidence, and testimony showed that Toledo killed the victims. He said the defendant murdered Yessenia over her affair with a co-worker, and killed her children to make sure there were no witnesses.
Johnson acknowledged that the bodies were never found, but they were clearly dead. In the four years since the alleged murders, Suarez never contacted family members, despite being very close with them. Also, her financial records showed no changes since then. No witnesses have since seen Yessenia or her children. The wife’s car, purse, and personal items were left behind. The children’s personal items were left behind. Testimony showed that the children last attended school on Oct. 22.
He argued that Toledo constantly changed his story when talking to investigators.
For instance, Toledo told investigators that he invited neighbor Tyshawn Jackson to his home at 3 a.m. to play video games, causing Suarez to getting mad.
“It doesn’t make sense whatsoever,” Johnson said. Toledo had previously told different stories.
As for the children, their deaths are definitely first degree murder, Johnson argued. After killing their mother, Toledo had a moment to make a conscious plan to end their lives.
“He had the opportunity to reflect on that,” Johnson said.
When it was his turn for closing, defense lawyer Jeffrey Deen said that proof of death was not proof that Toledo committed murder. The defendant’s knife wasn’t evidence because the state couldn’t prove why he threw it out.
“It’s just an ugly knife that he threw out of his car,” Deen said.
Deen showed jurors interview footage in which Toledo admitted killing Suarez with a blow to the neck after claiming she attacked him. The defendant also continued to blame the children’s murders on Jackson.
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.
Toledo did not take the stand in his own defense.
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Aaron Keller contributed to this article.