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Escoto Held In Contempt Of Court In Newlywed Murder Trial

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Peter D'Oench is a reporter for CBS4 News. He came to CBS4 from ...
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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A new twist in 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.

Michel Escoto is accused of murdering his bride Wendy Trapaga back in 2002.

On Thursday, he was held in contempt of court after he threatened a witness on the stand, according to our news partners the Miami Herald. The witness who was threatened is attorney Jorge Borron who represents the victim’s family.

The judge sentenced Escoto to 30 days in jail due to the incident.

On Friday, Borron was back on the witness stand but before that prosecutors asked for the tables in the cou rt to be moved so they could be out of Escoto’s reach, according to the paper. Escoto objected to the move, saying it would look bad with the jury, but the judge allowed it.

” I think it’s very dangerous. I think we’re asking for a problem. I am going to be very embarrased if it happens… You’re not the first judge that’s held him in contempt,” said Prosecutor Gail Levine. “There is no difference. Somebody pushes his button and it’s over and when it’s going to be over who is going to get hurt?”

Levine also said Escoto’s bad behavior jeopardized the safety of the courtroom.

“I think the proper word is tragedy,” she said. “We could have a tragedy. This defendant is a time bomb waiting to explode. Last week the defendant had an outrageous outburst against an Assistant State Attorney. The day before yesterday this defendant once again became angry and used disgusting language

to the victim’s half brother.”

“I may not be able to proceed because I am concerned about my safety, my partner’s safety, this courtroom’s safety and the bailiff’s safety,” she said. “I am not afraid of him. I am afraid of the havoc that he can wreak. That’s what I am afraid of.”

Escoto said, “I don’t recall the last time that I was that upset. The buck stops here, that I would let another human being get the best of me. This is not going to happen again.”

Escoto was held in contempt of court and sentenced to 30 days after responding to testimony from Jorge Borron, an attorney for the victim’s family.

Borron said, “The fact that you were married to her for three days before you killed her to get life insurance.”

Escoto then made an apparent threat, saying it would take “all those guys in white” to restrain him. That was a refernce to the courtroom bailiffs.

The state may rest its case on Monday. If convicted of first degree murder, Escoto faces life behind bars.

Last week, Escoto, who is acting as his own lawyer, cross-examined his ex-girlfriend and alleged partner-in-crime, Yolanda Cerillo.

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. Cerrillo testified that she and Escoto plotted his wife’s demise.

Before Cerillo, Trapaga’s mother, Myriam Benitez, took the stand. She 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.

She also talked about a fight between the couple before they got married in which she said he took off his helmet furiously and started throwing it against the cement. Benitez said she saw her daughter standing still and not moving during the incident.

Still, Benitez said she believed that her daughter and Escoto were happy when they got married at a courthouse ceremony on October 10th.

Shortly before their marriage, Trapaga told her mother she was pregnant. Her mother said she was looking forward to being a grandmother to that child but never got the chance.

©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.

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