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Toledo case takes another step toward trial
By Pat Andrews
posted Feb 20, 2014 - 11:05:12am
The case of the state vs. Luis Toledo lurched another step closer to trial Feb. 18, when the accused Deltona murderer and his attorney, Jeffrey Deen, appeared before Judge Margaret Hudson in the DeLand courthouse. The trial won't come before May, however.
Toledo maintained his plea of not guilty of killing his wife, Yessenia Suarez, and her two children in October.
The sparring between Attorney Deen and the State Attorney's Office over discovery, which began at a Feb. 3 hearing, continued Feb. 18.
“Discovery” is the process in which evidence and information for and against the defendant are obtained. Prosecutors are legally obliged to turn over evidence and witness lists to the defense, and the defense is obligated to give its information to the prosecution.
Deen wanted more time to go through "a large volume of discovery just in," and said he's still going over witness lists and witness statements, he told Judge Hudson.
Assistant State Attorney Ed Davis said only one report and some letters remain to be given to Deen.
Deen has not waived Toledo’s right to a speedy trial.
A person charged with a felony is entitled to a trial within 175 days of arrest, according to Florida law. The law is designed to prevent suspects from languishing in jail for undetermined lengths of time.
In Toledo’s case, the deadline for a speedy trial is April 16.
Judge Hudson noted that discovery is a point of contention in the case, and she granted one more continuance, with another hearing set for Tuesday, March 18. She set a tentative trial date of Monday, April 14, and will set a "time certain" trial date after the March 18 hearing, she said.
When the case does come to trial, it's likely that prosecutors will paint a picture of a man who killed his wife in a jealous rage, then killed her two children, perhaps to silence witnesses. According to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, Yessenia Suarez was killed with a blow to the throat.
No bodies have yet been found.
According to what Suarez told Lake Mary Police, Toledo had learned Suarez was having an affair with a coworker, and talked of divorce. Toledo showed up at her job in Lake Mary Oct. 22, and confronted Suarez, and slapped her.
Prosecutors are also likely to tell jurors Toledo tried to cover up the murders by cleaning away blood and other evidence from the Deltona house and by getting Suarez’s car to Lake Mary, perhaps to make it look like she disappeared from Lake Mary, not from her home in Deltona.
A neighbor of Suarez's told investigators that Toledo had awakened him around 6 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2013, the morning Suarez, 28, and 8-year-old Michael Otto and 9-year old Thalia Otto disappeared. The neighbor helped Toledo take Suarez's car to Lake Mary.
The neighbor told investigators Toledo wiped down the car with cleaning solution and put the rags and other items into a bag he took with him.
Another witness told investigators he saw Toledo put a bag of items in a dumpster. According to the Sheriff’s Office, when investigators retrieved the items, along with the cleaning rags, they found a trunk mat from Suarez's car that testing revealed was stained with the blood of one of the missing children.
When sheriff's personnel opened the front door to the Suarez house to look for her and the children that morning, Oct. 23, according to the Sheriff’s Office, they were struck with the strong odor of Pine-Sol. Also according to the Sheriff’s Office, the odor was strong in the area of the master bedroom and bath, and deputies found a streak around the bathtub that looked like blood, as well as wet grout near the master-bathroom closet.
Thalia Otto's DNA was found in blood stains from the bathroom, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
After the incident in Lake Mary Oct. 22, Suarez told Lake Mary police in a domestic-violence affidavit that Toledo had threatened her with a knife before, and had tried to strangle her before, and had stalked her. The couple had recently discussed divorce, she reported.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said Toledo admitted killing Suarez, but blamed the children’s deaths on someone else, and never revealed the whereabouts of the bodies.
Toledo was first charged with second-degree murder in Suarez's death. A grand jury subsequently indicted him on that charge and on first-degree murder charges in the death of the children. Toledo is pleading not guilty to all the charges.
After the Feb. 18 hearing, Attorney Deen said he has a "problem" with the indictments and wants to maintain a record for possible later appeal. He refused to discuss the case in any way, or to discuss Toledo's current mental state. Toledo attempted suicide while in custody in October.
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