Jury in Luis Toledo murder trial recommends life sentence

Video: Jury in Luis Toledo murder trial recommends life sentence

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Closing arguments ended early Friday afternoon in the sentencing phase of a 35-year-old Deltona man who was convicted last week of killing his wife and his two stepchildren.

Jurors began deliberating whether to recommend a death sentence or life in prison just before 3 p.m.

Just before 7 p.m., the jury returned to the courtroom with a recommendation that Luis Toledo spend the rest of his life in prison.

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The jury made the recommendation in connection with the murders of Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8.

Toledo was convicted Oct. 27 of killing Yessenia Suarez, 28, who disappeared from their Deltona home in October 2013. The bodies of the three victims were never found.

Prosecutors said he killed his wife and his stepchildren after learning that Suarez was having an affair and sought a divorce.

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Deputies said Toledo confessed to killing Suarez, but he denied killing her children.

Prosecutors said Toledo felt the children were a burden hindering him from freedom when his marriage was falling apart. They said the children trusted him, but he killed them to get rid of witnesses.

"At their young age, they were defenseless against someone his age; his size," prosecutor Mark Johnson said.

Toledo's lawyers showed jurors a scan of his brain Thursday and called on an expert witness, who said Toledo might have an injury that causes him to be aggressive.

"Bottom line is his brain is not wired the right way," defense attorney Michael Nielsen said.

Toledo's attorneys begged for life in prison and said that is a greater punishment than death.

"Luis has been trying to kill himself for years. That's what he wants -- don't do that," Nielsen said.

Prosecutors brought in their own expert, who said that it's not a diagnosis.

"In the area of neuropsychiatric and psychological problems, it's still in the research area," Dr. Larry Hold said.

Madeline Gonzalez, Toledo's cousin, tried to convince jurors to spare his life Thursday. She said that she still loves her cousin and plans to remain in touch with him.

Toledo told the judge he doesn't want his lawyers to argue against the death penalty.

Suarez's mother, Felecita Perez, was satisfied with the jury's recommendation.

"At least he's guilty," she said. "We know he did it. We know he killed my family.

"He will not see the light out of these cells. He'll be living in there for the rest of his life."

There is still one thing Perez needed for closure, though: the location Suarez and her children's bodies.

"If he wants God to forgive him, he needs to confess, to let us know what he did and let us find our family, no matter whatever is left," she said.

A sentencing hearing will take place in January.

Click here to watch the jury decision live and watch Channel 9 Eyewitness News for updates.