“The Other Woman” Testifies in Newlywed Murder Trial
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South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Every marital murder case it seems has “the other woman.”
Yolanda Cerillo is the other woman in the trial of Michel Escoto, accused of murdering Wendy Trapaga, his bride of just four days, in an effort to collect a million-dollar life insurance policy in 2002.
“He left me for somebody else,” Cerrillo testified Tuesday, weeping as she did for much of more than five hours on the stand.
Cerrillo testified Escoto kept her in his life, however, and the two plotted his wife’s demise.
The girlfriend said the plan was to crush narcotic Percocet pills, put them in Wendy’s drink, and drown her in a hotel bathtub. Cerrillo said Escoto botched the bathtub drowning attempt, and instead showed up at her door with a semi conscious Wendy in his car.
The girlfriend testified that Escoto had her follow him to a North Miami-Dade warehouse area, where police later found Wendy’s body beaten and strangled.
Cirrello said Escoto returned to her car, parked around the corner, carrying a tire iron in a blood-soaked rag and covered in blood himself.
“When he got in the car, I asked him what had happened, and he said ‘it’s done.'”
The girlfriend testified that she drove Escoto to the edge of Biscayne Bay near Port Miami, where he threw the tire iron in the water. Police divers later recovered the murder weapon where Cerrillo said they would find it.
She said Escoto instructed her to stick to a cover story that the couple had argued, Wendy had driven away, and fell victim to apparent robbers.
She admitted lying when questioned by police.
“I had no choice. He either kills me or I go to jail,” she testified. “There was nothing I could do.”
But when the girlfriend thought cops were moving in, she went to the state and made a deal to testify against her lover in exchange for immunity.
At first, she did not tell prosecutors the entire story. She omitted the fact that she was in on the murder plot from the beginning, and had practiced the original plan of drugging and drowning the newlywed.
She said she finally came totally clean with authorities, not in order to save her own neck, but out of shame.
“A mother lost her daughter and I had something to do with it,” Cerrillo said, sobbing.
Escoto, acting as his own attorney, cross examined his ex-girlfriend.
He noted that she had written letters to him in jail, proclaiming his innocence and declaring that it “would all work out.” She countered that she knew authorities would read the letters and, at the time, was trying to mislead them.
“Do you believe that you were traded in for a younger model?” Escoto asked Cerillo, who was considerably older at the time than the wife who was murdered.
“I believe you left me for somebody else,” Cerrillo replied.
Escoto attempted to suggest Cerrillo was a jealous ex, with motive to want her competition out of the way.
“Did you ever think you wanted Wendy dead?” Escoto asked.
Cerrillo clung to her story of a joint murder plot, and said Wendy would be alive had Escoto not conned the young woman into marriage.
“All this never would have happened if you hadn’t left me,” she told him.
Escoto filed a claim for the $1 million policy on his wife’s life shortly after Her murder. The murder case arose from inconsistencies revealed in Escoto’s unsuccessful efforts to collect on the insurance policy.
Last week Trapaga’s mother, Myriam Benitez, testified that she didn’t care for Escoto when he and her daughter started dating. She was also concerned when her daughter told her she bought life insurance while she and Escoto were living together but not married.
“I did not feel good,” said Benitez. “I expressed to her ‘Why insurance?’ They’re not even married, no children. They’re renting. She’s sleeping on the floor. She did not have a job. Why insurance?”
She also talked about a fight between the couple before their marriage.
“He takes off his helmet furiously, very angry, starts throwing it against the cement once, two times very angry,” Benitez added. “I’m in shock and I see my daughter standing still not moving.”
Still, Benitez said she believed that her daughter and Escoto were happy when they wed at a courthouse ceremony October 10th.
Shortly before their marriage, Wendy Trapaga told her mother she was pregnant.
Her mother said she was looking forward to being a grandmother to that child .
She never got the chance.