Jury recommends life in prison for triple murderer Luis Toledo

Toledo convicted of killing wife, stepchildren in 2013


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A jury recommended life in prison Friday for convicted Volusia County triple murderer Luis Toledo for killing his wife and stepchildren.

Reading of the verdict initially was misinterpreted as a death sentence, but the vote was later clarified that Toledo was sentenced to life in prison.

Toledo was found guilty last week in the deaths of his wife, Yessenia Suarez, and her two children, Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8.

On Friday, the jury recommended life without parole for the murder of Thalia and Michael Otto by a vote of 10-2. A death sentence requires a unanimous vote.

Toledo was convicted of second-degree murder in his wife's death, which cannot be punished by death.

"There's nothing more cold-hearted than the murder of children," prosecutor Mark Johnson said.
Friday was the state's last attempt to argue why 36-year-old Toledo should be sentenced to death.
"This is someone who has decided to end someone's life, to save his own hide," Johnson said.
Prosecutors presented evidence to the jury that included past criminal history and the reasons why Toledo killed his wife, Yessenia Suarez and her two children. The state also insisted that Toledo has no mental health issues.

"All the records we do have, there's absolutely no indications in any of them, that the defendant suffered any type of brain injury," Johnson said.
The defense struck back, calling out prosecutors and reminding jurors about Toledo's hardships and brain abnormalities.
"He's a living, breathing human being and premeditated murder in the name of the state is an outrage," attorney Michael Nielsen said. "These gentlemen are not going to come in here, risk their entire working career, to try and perpetrate a fraud."
Nielsen also asked the jury to separate their emotions from the facts, pleading one last time for mercy.
"Think of Luis as a little bird and you're holding him in your hand. Make a verdict and vote, that he should be killed and just be tossed away, or you can take that little bird, put him in a tiny little cage and let him go for the rest of his life in misery, in a little cage," Nielsen said.

Suarez's family, dressed in purple for domestic violence awareness, was in court for the sentencing.

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