NEW YORK — A man arrested for killing a Lake Mary businessman who disappeared during a trip to New York City has taken a plea deal, admitting to killing a central Florida businessman.
A jury was already deliberating the fate of ex-Russian soldier Mikhail Cherneyev when the surprise plea deal was announced. Cherneyev pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and will be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
On Monday, Charles Butler's family was in a Kings County Courthouse in Brooklyn as the trial entered the jury phase.
Police said Butler, 56, entered his girlfriend's Brooklyn apartment in September 2012 and was never seen alive again.
Photos: Missing Lake Mary man
In court, Molly Butler and her siblings sat just a few feet away from the man accused of killing their father.
"It's really rough. I didn't think I'd be sitting so close to him," she said.
In court, New York Police Department Detective Lisa Moran detailed how police centered in on Chernyaev, a former Russian Army soldier.
Prosecutors said Chernyaev was jealous that Charles Butler was dating his former wife. They said he attacked Charles Butler, killing him and then dumped his body well outside the city.
But after a lengthy interrogation by NYPD, Chernyaev admitted only to fighting with Charles Butler. The confession isn't completely cut and dry as Chernyaev maintains the two were fighting, according to Channel 9's Christopher Heath.
The state said evidence clearly shows that Cherneyev attacked Charles Butler, placing his hand over Butler's mouth and his forearm over Charles Butler's throat for more than three minutes.
"It gets harder and harder every day to sit through the evidence, listening to it," Molly Butler said.
The final witness for the state described Chernyaev's vehicles. They were two mini-vans, one packed with trash, and the other cleaned out, the floor removed and replaced with plywood. The assertion was that the latter was the vehicle used to dump the body.
Chernyaev was charged with second-degree murder in Charles Butler's death.
The defense has worked to poke holes in the prosecutions explanations of what they said happened, hoping to raise doubt in jurors' minds.
Police said Chernyaev confessed to killing Charles Butler, but defense attorneys told jurors the confession came after a marathon interrogation session.
For the Butler children, the trial is providing some closure.
"It's a relief that we're finally here. We've waited 2 1/2 years," Molly Butler said.
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