Summary: A Florida man was found guilty of murdering law partner, Melissa Britt Lewis.
After less than two hours of deliberation on Monday, a jury found Tony Villegas guilty of murdering attorney, Melissa Britt Lewis. Police say that Villegas blamed Lewis, his wife’s friend, for the demise of his marriage.
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The trial took place in Fort Lauderdale for about a week. On Monday morning, the jury reached a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder for Villegas, 52, He had been accused of strangling Lewis in her home in March of 2008.
Lewis’ body was found in a Plantation canal, and her abandoned SUV was discovered nearby. There were signs of a struggle inside of her garage, and prosecutors stated that there was DNA and cellphone location signals that linked Villegas to the scene of the murder. They stated that his DNA was found in 16 places on the suit jacket Lewis wore the night she was killed.
According to 7 News Miami, the victim’s family addressed her killer in court, citing his jealousy. They stated they forgave him in order to move on.
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“With this selfish act of jealousy, you not only violated our family, but your own too,” Lynn Haberl, Lewis’ aunt said. “We will all suffer this loss as long as we live, but we forgive you.”
Villegas was sentenced to life in prison, but his attorney Bruce Fleischer said they may appeal. The attorney said that Lewis was the partner to Scott Rothstein, a convicted Ponzi schemer, and he alluded to Rothstein’s ties to organized crime that may have resulted in her death. He said he was not allowed to introduce this theory during the trial.
“Rothstein was involved in a Ponzi scheme, making tons and tons of money and perhaps there are certain people from the Rothstein firm who found out about this and that was not good for the firm,” Fleischer said. “Perhaps some people in the firm knew too much, and you can draw your own conclusion.”
Villegas’ wife Debra Coffey was Rothstein’s CEO at Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in his Ponzi scheme, but her sentence was lessened after she helped prosecutors.
Do you think Villegas has a chance of winning an appeal with his Rothstein defense? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: 7 News Miami