ST. AUGUSTINE | Felicita Perez and Michael Otto released balloons with pictures of their loved ones outside the courthouse on Monday morning, minutes before the trial of the Deltona man accused of killing his wife and her two children resumed.
Toledo, 35, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Yessenia Suarez, 28, and two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her children Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Elijah Otto, 8. If convicted of killing either of the children, Toledo could face the death penalty.
Four years ago Monday, the mother and children were reported missing from their home at 317 Covent Gardens Place in Deltona. Perez, worried she could not reach her daughter, called 911 on the morning of Oct. 23, 2013.
Perez, who is Suarez’s mother, and Otto, the children’s father, released the balloons which floated away in the wind. A star-shaped balloon was inscribed with the words “Justice for Yessenia, Thalia and Elijah.” Some of the balloons had a leaflet with pictures of the missing mother and her children.
Monday’s testimony included audio of an attempted suicide by Toledo.
Prosecutors Ryan Will and Mark Johnson along with investigators say Toledo killed the mother and children and then disposed of their bodies.
But in the video of an interview with police in October 2013, played for the jury at the Richard O. Watson Judicial Center on Monday morning, Toledo claimed his neighbor Tyshawn Jackson disposed of the bodies. Toledo said he did not know what Jackson did with the bodies. Toledo said Jackson told him it was better he didn’t know.
Jackson has not been charged in the crime and investigators said he is not involved in the murders.
Jackson testified earlier that Toledo woke him up shortly after 6 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2013, and asked him to help dump Suarez’s car at a Publix in Lake Mary. Later that day, Jackson told police about that and that Toledo dumped other items in a dumpster.
As the video played, Toledo sat with his defense attorneys Michael Nielsen, Jeff Deen and Michael Nappi. Toledo looked down at the desk where he had a copy of the transcript of the interview. Another time Toledo looked up at the image of him in the orange jail jumpsuit talking to Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. A.J. Pagliari.
Toledo said that his wife Yessenia Saurez was angry after he invited his neighbor Jackson into his house early on the morning of Oct. 23, 2013, to play video games. Toledo says his wife was punching him in the chest but it wasn’t having any effect. He says she then hit him in the glasses.
Pagliari asked him if it was the glasses he was wearing. Toledo said yes but then quickly changed and said no that it was another pair. Toledo said that’s how he got a mark on his face.
He said he had told his wife that to defend herself to gouge a man in his eyes. He said he was afraid she would do that to him.
Toledo said he lashed out, making it sound almost like a reflex. He launched his right arm straight out like throwing a punch. He said the punch caught her in the neck.
Toledo said his wife fell back and died from the punch.
He said her two children walked in and started asking what had happened to their mother. Toledo said Jackson took the kids in another room and killed them to eliminate them as witnesses.
Prosecutor Will focused on inconsistencies in Toledo’s account later in the day by playing another interview in which Toledo said he found the bodies of the boy and the girl on the bathroom floor next to each other. In another interview Toledo said the girl’s body was moved to the tub. And in another instance Toledo said the boy’s body was in the tub.
Prosecutors also called Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kurt Schoeps, who testified that he escorted Toledo to a restroom at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office during an interview on Oct. 26, 2013.
Schoeps said Toledo saw he had an audio recorder and asked him to get rid of it. Scheops slid the recorder away along the rug hoping it would still record but the batteries fell out. Schoeps had also motioned for Investigator Bryan Ford to be nearby but out of sight.
Schoeps testifed that Toledo asked him to take him home because he wanted to die where his family died. Schoeps also said Toledo suggested that once at the house Schoeps loosen his cuffs. Toledo said he would make a run for it and Schoeps or another deputy could shoot him, Schoeps testified.
Schoeps said he asked Toledo to tell them where the bodies were.
Schoeps testified Toledo said he would never tell them where the bodies were.
Toledo then tensed up as if preparing to fight but he never got the chance as Ford joined Schoeps and they took Toledo back to the interview room.
During cross examination, defense attorney Jeff Deen asked Schoeps why he didn’t ask Toledo about the statement that he would never tell them where the bodies once they returned to the interview room where the recorder was running. Schoeps said he alluded to it at one point.
Deen countered that he never directly asked him about it again even though he went over other things.
Later, Toledo bent over and held his stomach and asked to go to the restroom again. Toledo was escorted to the restroom for the third time. This time Toledo flushed the toilet but then suddenly slammed the door shut and locked it. A video camera captured the sounds as investigators tried to kick the door in and then Schoeps ran outside to get a Taser and a battering ram from his car.
Pagliari said he heard the sound of glass breaking inside the restroom. Toledo was leaning against the door and using pieces of the mirror to cut his arm and neck.
Ford and Schoeps smashed a “pie-sized” hole in the door.
Then Pagliari Taser-stunned Toledo through the hole and the men were able to enter the restroom and take Toledo.
Toledo appeared in a subsequent video with a bandage on his upper left arm.