(AVENTURA, Fla.) — A Florida jury at the opening of Adam Kaufman’s murder trial heard the frantic 911 call placed by the Florida real estate developer accused of strangling his wife to death in 2007, but whose defense says she died because of a previously undetected heart condition.
Kaufman said he found his wife, 33, on the bathroom floor of the couple’s South Florida home in the early morning of Nov. 7, 2007. With tears filling his eyes, he sat in court on Monday as the jury listened to the moment he said he discovered wife Eleonora “Lina” Kaufman not breathing and without a pulse on their bathroom floor five years ago.
“Oh my god — I don’t know what’s going on,” Kaufman is heard saying. “I don’t know what happened. She’s on the floor dying. She’s not breathing.”
The prosecution alleges that the call happened moments after Kaufman strangled his wife to death in the couple’s Aventura, Fla., home, telling the jury this is a clear case of murder. During opening arguments, prosecutors showed the jury pictures of her body with multiple cuts and abrasions, which they say a witness will testify were not there hours before her death. Prosecutors say such evidence helps prove that Kaufman strangled his wife.
“Lina Kaufman died as a result of mechanical asphyxiation to her neck, and her husband is the one who did it,” prosecuting attorney Joseph Mansfield told the jury.
Criminal defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh, who has no connection to the case, told ABC News, “These photos are going be a huge compelling piece of evidence for the prosecution. They’re gory and jurors may say, ‘Well, this is inconsistent with what the defense is alleging,’ but that’s where the battle of experts comes in.”
Medical examiners say even though it took them a long time to determine the cause of death, they are certain she was murdered. Dr. Bruce A. Hyma, Miami-Dade County’s chief medical examiner, has said only “direct focused pressure” consistent with force applied by another person could have caused the deep bleeding in the victim’s neck muscles.
Eleonora Kaufman’s death wasn’t declared a homicide until 2009, when Adam Kaufman complained to the medical examiner’s office that after 18 months he still didn’t know what caused her death. Immediately after her death was ruled a homicide, Kaufman was accused of strangling her and charged with second-degree murder.
Adam Kaufman’s defense laid out its case Monday to the jury in opening arguments, saying that Eleonora’s death was no murder, but a medical condition that suddenly turned deadly.
“Lina had a bad heart,” defense attorney Bill Matthewman said. “You will hear no motive. No evidence of a motive whatsoever. No life insurance. No financial crimes. No affairs during the marriage on behalf of Adam or Lina. No neighbors heard any arguments.”
The case against Adam Kaufman, who had two children with his wife, first gained national attention in 2009 at a bond hearing when his lawyers initially blamed Lina’s death on a violent, allergic reaction to the spray tan she’d just gotten. Attorneys said that theory was disproved by science.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
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