FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Broward County jury convicted Gerard Lopes of second-degree murder for the death of his adoptive mother, Natalie Belmonte.
On Monday prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments and the jury deliberated for over five hours before reaching a verdict.
Lopes, whose sentencing date is set for October 10th, faces up to life in prison.
Lopes hardly flinched when he heard the news.
State prosecutors had sought a first-degree premeditated murder conviction.
Belmonte’s sister, who testified in the trial that lasted a little over a week, hugged a supporter after the verdict was read. As did Belmonte’s daughter. The family, though, said they will not comment until after Lopes is sentenced.
Lopes attorney plans to appeal.
“We’re happy with the verdict. We’re going to go up on appeal and the next step is a motion for a new trial. We feel there is plenty of error in the case,” said Lopes’s attorney Jose Reyes.
Broward’s State of Attorney’s Office released a statement regarding the verdict, “We respect the decision of the jurors, who worked diligently to reach their verdict. Once again, our condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim, Natalie Belmonte. Now we begin preparing for sentencing, which could end up being as much as life in prison.”
Prosecutors claimed Lopes raped, beat and suffocated his mother, 43-year-old Belmonte, in their Pembroke Pines home in July 2011. He then reportedly put her body in the trunk of her car and dumped her in a marsh close by.
On Monday, Judge Matthew Destry ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove rape so he denied the prosecution’s efforts to have the jury decide whether sexual battery should be considered.
Prosecutors said Belmonte was killed after attending a graduation party with Lopes. Surveillance video captured the two shopping for beer and wine before the party. When they returned home, prosecutors said they had a confrontation in her bedroom.
In the surveillance video, Lopes was in shorts. Investigators said those shorts were found stained with blood in a dumpster.
“She fought for her life until she couldn’t fight anymore,” said assistant state attorney Adriana Padron.
The defense opined that the two were in an improper relationship and suggested a jilted boyfriend of Belmonte was the real killer.
“He sees them having consensual sex and how might he react,” said defense attorney Jose Reyes.
Reyes said he will file the appeal directly after Lopes’s sentencing.