MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Opening statements got underway Monday in the trial of a Lighthouse Point man charged in his ex-wife’s death and disappearance nearly two decades ago.
Clifford Friend, 58, is charged of first degree murder in the death of his ex-wife 35-year-old Lynne Friend. The trial is being heard by a twelve member jury before Miami-Dade Judge Teresa Pooler.
Prosecutor Marie Mato told jurors in her opening statement Monday, “Clifford Friend is a murderer.” The state said Friend was enraged that his ex-wife had just won custody of their five year old son in a bitter custody dispute.
“He was screaming at his lawyer, ‘No one’s going to take my son!”
Mato said Friend lured Lynne to his home on the pretext of giving her a child support check.
“He strangled her with his bare hands,” she told the jury.
Mato said Friend wrapped his ex-wife’s body in heavy chains and put the body in a duffel bag, and called his pal, Alan Gold, to come help him dispose of the body.
Mato described how the two took Friends’s boat with Lynne’s body out into the ocean.
“He took the anchor from the boat and put it in the bag as well to make sure there was enough weight,” Mato said.
As the pair dumped the body, they were surprised by Custom’s agents who saw them dumping something overboard, Mato said. The boat raced away with the Customs boat in pursuit. The agents thought they were chasing drug runners, but after stopping and questioning them, let Friend and Gold go.
When it was learned Lynne was missing, police immediately focused on Friend. The case languished for 18 years before a Grand jury, based on the original circumstantial evidence, indicted Friend for first degree murder in 2012. The case was bolstered when Gold spilled his story to prosecutors in 2013.
Defense attorney Peter Heller told jurors the State’s case has a fatal flaw.
“There is no body,” said Heller, reminding jurors that Lynne’s remains have never been found.
“This case reeks of reasonable doubt,” Heller said.
He said Customs agents will testify they saw “objects” being thrown from the boat, and the largest object, the size of a big suitcase, floated – which would be inconsistent with a body weighted with heavy chains and a large boat anchor.
“What you have here is a lack of evidence and the word of a convicted felon,” Heller said, referring to Gold. Heller said Gold told prosecutors “what they wanted to hear,” rather than risk facing charges. Heller said Gold was granted blanket immunity for his testimony.
The defense told jurors no physical evidence connects Friend to his ex-wife’s murder, that no DNA from her was found at Friend’s home where she was allegedly murdered, and that none of Friend’s DNA or fingerprints were found on her car, that he allegedly ditched in a Northeast Miami-Dade field.
“It’s a fabrication,” Heller said of the State’s case. “It’s not true.”
Friend is facing life in prison if convicted.
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