(NEW YORK) — Adam Kaufman, the Florida developer who earlier this week was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2007 death of his wife in an explosive trial that became known as the “spray tan” trial, says he never thought he would be convicted.
“In my heart I didn’t,” Kaufman said Thursday on ABC’s Good Morning America. “You leave it up to 12 good people that have to make a very, very difficult decision. Presented with the evidence in this case, I just didn’t feel that they would be able to come back with a guilty verdict.”
Kaufman stood accused of strangling his wife Eleonora “Lina” Kaufman to death in their Aventura, Fla., home. The defense maintained throughout the trial that the real estate developer is innocent, arguing that his wife died from a pre-existing heart condition.
The case initially garnered nationwide attention in 2009, when the defense blamed Eleonora’s death on a violent, allergic reaction to the spray tan that she’d received the day before she died.
Attorneys said that theory was disproved by science, and the defense was later dropped. Defense attorneys soon instead said she died naturally from an unknown heart condition.
In his first appearance since being declared innocent, Kaufman on Thursday explained why his defense team initially presented that case.
“The night before she [Eleonora] passed away she had a spray tan for the first time and we felt that it would be negligent of us not to bring that up,” Kaufman said on GMA. “The problem was that it was never investigated, it was never looked into and we felt that it should have.”
“You weren’t getting answers from the medical examiner’s office. They wouldn’t return our phone calls,” he said. “You have a 33-year-old woman [who is] healthy, active, in great shape, eats well, doesn’t drink and smokes a few cigarettes a month. We were thinking of every possible thing that could have happened.”
Kaufman sat stone-faced and silent throughout most of the trial, and didn’t take the stand in his defense. He did break down in tears as the court heard the desperate 911 call he made when he found his wife on their bathroom floor five years ago.
“It’s something that I don’t wish on my worst enemy,” Kaufman said on GMA. “It’s something that you don’t ever expect you’re going to be in a situation like that where you walk in and suddenly find your wife, who’s healthy by all means, collapsed, cold, non-responsive.”
The explosive trial ended Tuesday with an emotional outburst from the defendant’s mother-in-law, who stood by his side throughout the trial and even testified for the defense.
Frida Aizman, Lina Kaufman’s mother, was ejected from the courtroom after she had an emotional response to the prosecution’s suggestion that she only came to Kaufman’s defense in order to maintain her relationship with her grandchildren.
After the not guilty verdict was read, she and her son-in-law hugged.
“No matter what, I’m truly blessed to have that,” he said of his wife’s family’s support. “Her family has been extremely supportive throughout this whole thing.”
“Everyone that knew our relationship and knew us would never in a million years think that would be possible,” Kaufman said of the charges that he strangled his wife.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sara Stewart, CNN
Terry Sater, WISN
David Williams, CNN