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DNA Expert Takes Stand In “Newlywed Murder Trial”

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Michel Escoto in court on Monday, April 7, 2014. (Source: CBS4)

Michel Escoto in court on Monday, April 7, 2014. (Source: CBS4)

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Murder suspect Michel Escoto spent most of the day questioning his defense witness, a DNA expert from Florida’s panhandle–but it was no easy task.

The majority of Escoto’s questions brought an onslaught of objections from prosecutor Gail Levine.

Escoto is defending himself in the murder trial. He’s accused of beating his newlywed wife Wendy Trapaga to death with a tire iron to collect insurance money.

Escoto showed the court plenty of eye rolling and heavy sighs as he struggled to phrase his questions in a way that the Judge would allow.

At one point Escoto stormed off to his seat and appeared to get choked up. After a few minutes, Escoto was back to questioning the DNA results police obtained in their investigation.

DNA expert Candy Zuleger testified that Escoto’s DNA was not the only DNA found on the dress Trapaga wore the night of the murder.

She also testified that in some of her testing markers, Escoto’s DNA was not present.

“How significant is it for markers to not be found or not to be consistent?” he asked Zuleger. She responded, “I believe that was the reason they called the comparison inconclusive because there was some data above and below threshold and they weren’t able to make a clear comparison.”

Leveine harshly questioned Zulega, pointing out that she has been paid more than 27-thousand dollars to serve as a defense expert.

She also attacked Zuleger’s methods of DNA collection.

“I’m going to ask you one more time, it’s not that hard of a question, were you offered the opportunity to come to the lab and you chose not to because you did not want to travel from Milton, Florida where you’re from to come to Miami, even though your expenses would be paid by the judicial administration committee for you to do that. Yes or no?”

Zuleger responded simply, “I don’t recall.”

The trial will continue and the big question is whether Escoto will take the stand himself at some point. If he does, court experts say it will likely just involve him giving a statement- since it would be a bit odd for him to ask and answer his own questions.

If found guilty, Escoto faces a life sentence.

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