ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After years of delays, jury selection began Monday for a Central Florida man facing the death penalty in connection with the deaths of his wife and her two children.
A judge ordered that the trial for suspected triple murderer Luis Toledo be held in St. Augustine to escape the public exposure in Volusia County, which is where authorities say Toledo killed Yessenia Suarez and her two children, Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8, in October of 2013.
Their bodies have never been found.
Although his attorney has requested multiple times that the death penalty be thrown out, Toledo could face capital punishment if convicted.
Jury selection began at 8:30 a.m. Monday in St. Johns County. It is expected to span the entirety of this week and the guilt phase of the trial is expected to last two to three weeks.
Juror No. 53 was dismissed during a recess around 10:30 a.m. after asking the court about his own felony conviction.
While that potential juror was speaking with the judge, courtroom deputies had Toledo stand up to escort him to the restroom. The defense asked that the juror be dismissed because he saw Toledo shackled.
After that incident, the court agreed that the judge, the defense and the prosecution remain seated when the jury exits and enters so the Toledo doesn't have to stand and show that he is shackled.
As of 11 a.m., 23 of 53 potential jurors had been released due to hardships.
Their circumstances included an upcoming wedding, hurricane damage, college student missing an exam, sick children, an employer unwilling to pay for time missed at work and one is a corporate pilot planning to fly to Puerto Rico to help with Hurricane Maria relief efforts.
Four other jurors were dismissed Monday after admitting that they had seen prior media coverage of the case.
Check back for more updates on this developing story.