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Florida Man Guilty Of Killing Newlywed Wife To Collect Life On Insurance Policy

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29:  Handcuffs are seen on the hands of a twenty-year old "Street Villains" gang member who was arrested by Los Angeles Police Department officers from the 77th Street division on April 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The 77th Street division patrol the same neighborhood that truck driver Reginald Denny was nearly beaten to death by a group of black assailants at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues. It?s been 20 years since the verdict was handed down in the Rodney King case that sparked infamous Los Angeles riots.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29: Handcuffs are seen on the hands of a twenty-year old "Street Villains" gang member who was arrested by Los Angeles Police Department officers from the 77th Street division on April 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The 77th Street division patrol the same neighborhood that truck driver Reginald Denny was nearly beaten to death by a group of black assailants at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues. It?s been 20 years since the verdict was handed down in the Rodney King case that sparked infamous Los Angeles riots. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

A South Florida man was convicted Tuesday of beating his newlywed wife to death so he could collect a $1 million life insurance policy.

Michel Escoto was married to 21-year-old Wendy Trapaga for only four days in October 2002 when he strangled and beat her, prosecutors said. Escoto initially tried to drug her during their Key West honeymoon and make her death look like an accidental drowning, but Trapaga complained her drink was too chalky.

He tried to drown her again several days later in a Jacuzzi at Miami's Executive Airport Motel, but he couldn't get her to stay under water, prosecutors said. He finally beat her to death with a tire iron outside a warehouse later that night, prosecutors said.

"He took her life, boldly, brazenly, for money," prosecutor Gail Levine said during closing arguments.

A Miami-Dade County jury found the 42-year-old guilty of first-degree murder and he faces a mandatory life sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for May 7.

The lead witness against Escoto was his ex-girlfriend, Yolanda Cerrillo, The Miami Herald reported. With immunity from prosecution, Cerrillo told jurors she helped Escoto plan the murder, ground up the prescription painkillers to knock Trapaga out and even practiced with Escoto how to drown the young woman.

Escoto initially told detectives that he and Trapaga got into an argument the night she was killed. He said they left the motel and she dropped him off at their South Beach apartment before driving off. But homicide detectives were immediately suspicious of his forced grief and the large insurance policy.

Escoto eventually filed a lawsuit to collect the money but gave conflicting versions of what happened during a 2005 trial. The conflicting details led to his arrest, and he has remained in jail since then.

Escoto represented himself during his murder trial. At one point, the judge found him in contempt of court for threatening a witness on the stand.

"The truth triumphed over the lies," said Trapaga's mother, Myriam Benitez. "God accompanied us throughout this whole process. May my daughter rest in peace."

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