Michel Escoto's ex-girlfriend says she helped him practice killing wife

Yolanda Cerrillo says man accused of strangling new bride in 2002 originally planned to drown her

Yolanda Cerrillo testifies that she helped Michel Escoto practice killing his wife.
Yolanda Cerrillo testifies that she helped Michel Escoto practice killing his wife.

MIAMI – A man accused of killing his wife less than a week after they were married listened in court Tuesday as his ex-girlfriend testified that she helped him practice the crime.

Michel Escoto is acting as his own attorney in his murder trial. He is accused of strangling his new bride, Wendy Trapaga, in 2002 to collect her $1 million life insurance policy.

Escoto wasn't charged until 2005 after he stopped trying to collect the insurance money.

Yolanda Cerrillo testified that she was desperately in love with Escoto and did everything possible to keep him in her life, including helping him practice killing his wife.

Cerrillo explained how Escoto originally planned to drown her.

"We filled up my tub, and then I got in the water and he got here, kneeling inside the water and he pushed me down with his hands," Cerrillo testified.

Cerrillo said that once Escoto released her, she told him why he would not be successful.

"I told him that wouldn't work because the force of him holding her down in the water would leave bruises," Cerrillo said.

After Trapaga's death, Cerrillo testified, there were fights with Escoto that had her fearing for her life.

"He grabbed me, he threw me on the bed and he started choking me," Cerrillo testified. "So I thought I was going to die, so the only thing that I could do was scratch him."

Her testimony comes one day after Escoto cross-examined his former mother-in-law.

Prosecutors offered Cerrillo immunity in exchange for her testimony.

If convicted, Escoto faces life in prison.