NEW bride Wendy Trapaga was brutally beaten to death by her husband Michel Escoto just four days after their wedding – all because he wanted to get his money-grubbing mitts on her million-dollar insurance policy!
Now, 12 years after Wendy’s vicious murder, justice has finally been served. On May 7, Escoto, who represented himself at his month-long trial, was sentenced in a Miami courtroom to life in prison without parole.
“It means a lot for the family to have correct justice after so many years,” said Miami-Dade Detective Gus Bayas, the original lead detective on the case.
In 2002, Wendy, 21, was taking classes at a beauty school when she met evil monster Escoto. According to her family, he pushed her to marry him, even convincing her to lie to her relatives about being pregnant.
Prosecutors said Escoto originally planned to drug Wendy with Percocet painkillers that were crushed into powder form, then drown her. He made his first attempt during their honeymoon in Key West, but Wendy refused to down the spiked drink because it tasted “too chalky.”
A few days later, the fiend tried again. This time, he succeeded in drugging her, but had trouble keeping her head underwater in the Jacuzzi of the Miami hotel room where they were staying.
Frustrated, Escoto drove her to a warehouse area and beat her to death with a tire iron later than night, said prosecutors.
“Wendy had no life after you,” said state attorney Gail Levine during closing arguments. “You took her life, boldly, brazenly, for money.”
Ultimately, it was Escoto’s greed that did him in. He attempted to collect the million-dollar payout two months after Wendy’s death, and ended up suing the insurance company to get it. During a 2005 trial related to the lawsuit, Escoto, 42, gave conflicting accounts about what had transpired on the night of his wife’s death and was arrested for her murder. He’s been behind bars ever since.
The state built its case around the testimony of Escoto’s former girlfriend, Yolanda Cerillo, who admitted to playing a role in Wendy’s death. In exchange for immunity, Cerillo told prosecutors that she had helped plan the killing. She admitted to crushing the Percocet pills, helping Escoto “practice” the drowning, driving him away from the crime scene and assisting him with getting rid of the tire iron.
Jurors spent less than three hours deliberating before returning a guilty verdict.
Although the road to justice was long and often painful for Wendy’s family, they are thankful that their nightmare is finally over.
“The truth triumphed over the lies,” said the slain woman’s mother, Myriam Benitez. “God accompanied us throughout this whole process. May my daughter rest in peac