Newlywed Murder Trial Continues, “The Other Woman” Cross-Examined
South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The trial of a man accused of murdering his bride, just four days after they got married, in order to collect a million-dollar life insurance policy continued on Wednesday.
Yolanda Cerillo, Michel Escoto’s ex-girlfriend and alleged partner-in-crime, finished on the stand Wednesday afternoon.
Cerillo was emotional in court. On re-direct by the prosecution, she was adamant in her story that Escoto wanted his wife dead for the insurance money and that she played a role before and after the murder but didn’t participate in the actual deed.
Cerillo is the other woman in the trial of Escoto, accused of murdering his bride Wendy Trapaga, back in 2002. Initially lying to police about her part in the murder, she agreed to testify against Escoto in exchange for immunity.
“It doesn’t stop how bad I feel, nothing stops that, not being here, not testifying, nothing,” Cerillo said Wednesday on the stand. “I still feel just as bad.
Cerrillo testified that she and Escoto plotted his wife’s demise.
Cerillo said the plan was to crush narcotic Percocet pills, put them in Treaga’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 Treaga in his car. She said Escoto had her follow him to a North Miami-Dade warehouse area, where police later found Treaga’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’.”
During his cross examination of her Escoto, who is acting as his own lawyer, tried to portray Cerillo as a jealous ex-girlfriend.
“Did you feel I that ‘I hate Wenday and I want her to go away’,” asked Escoto.
“I hated what she stood for. I didn’t know who she was. I hated the situation I was in,” replied Cerillo.
Escoto all but accused Cerillo of being the killer.
“And did you wish she was dead,” asked Escoto.
“I wished she would go away,” said Cerillo.
Escoto pressed on, noting Cerillo told police details only the killer would know.
“Was a murder weapon found in the specific area where you indicated it could be found,” asked Escoto.
He was referring to the tire iron which was found in Biscayne Bay, near PortMiami, where Cerillo told the police Escoto had thrown it.
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.”
Cerillo insisted she came forward because of a guilty conscience, not because she was guilty of murder.
“I just needed to get it off my chest,” she said.
“A mother lost her daughter and I had something to do with it,” Cerrillo said, sobbing.
During cross examination on Tuesday Escoto noted that Cerillo 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.
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.