State can seek death penalty against accused murderer Luis Toledo

Jury selection in trial begins Monday in St. Augustine

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A judge on Friday ruled that the state can continue to seek the death penalty against Luis Toledo, who is accused of killing his wife and her two children.

Toledo is accused of killing Yessenia Suarez and her two children, Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8, in Volusia County in October 2013. Their bodies have not been found.

Toledo's attorney filed a motion claiming that the notice of intent to seek the death penalty that the state of Florida filed on March 28, 2014, approximately 39 days after Toledo's arraignment, was no longer valid because the state's death penalty requirements have changed.

The judge, however, denied the motion, which said the state should have filed a second notice that met the state's updated requirements after Florida changed its death penalty-law in March.

Under Florida law, the notice of intent to seek the death penalty must be filed within 45 days of the defendant's arraignment, but because Toledo was arraigned in 2014, it's too late to file a new notice that meets the new standards, according to Toledo's attorney.

"Further, even if the court didn't require a new arraignment by illegally expanding the stated legislative intent clearly expressed in the statute, and instead permitted the 45 days to run from the date of enactment, March 13th, 2017, that time would have expired April 27th, 2017," the motion read.

Toledo's defense has unsuccessfully asked for the court to throw out the death penalty in the past.

The judge also ruled Friday that witnesses can refer to Toledo by his nickname, Semi. The defense wanted the use of the nickname barred, claiming it could infer Toledo's prior gang affiliation.

The judge said testimony about a fight between Toledo and his wife six days before she disappeared would be allowed at trial. During the fight, Suarez was armed with an ax and Toledo had a knife, it was stated in court.

Jury selection in the long-delayed trial will begin Monday in St. Augustine. Once selected, jurors will not be sequestered. The judge said the community in St. Johns County has not been exposed to too much publicity about the case.

A judge has ordered that Toledo have no contact with any other inmates while he is transported from the Volusia County Jail to St. John's County. He will remain there through the duration of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.

Watch News 6 for updates.

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