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BREAKING: Jury recommends death for convicted Cape Coral killer Wade Wilson

State attorneys are trying to convince a jury Wade Wilson should be put to death. Defense attorneys want to spare his life.
Posted at 4:34 PM, Jun 24, 2024

UPDATE: TUESDAY, JUNE 25 3:25PM

The jury found that prosecutors presented enough evidence to sentence Wade Wilson to death for the murders of Kristine Melton and Diane Ruiz.

Lee County Sheriff's Office News Conference

UPDATE: TUESDAY, JUNE 25 3:10PM

The judge just announced that the jury has made a decision on the punishment recommendation for Wade Wilson. You can watch it live here:

UPDATE: TUESDAY, JUNE 25 1:50PM

Closing arguments are over and the jury is now deliberating what penalty they will recommend for Wade Wilson. They can choose life in prison or the death penalty.

UPDATE: TUESDAY, JUNE 25 7:30AM

Court resumes today at 9:00am in downtown Ft Myers.

Attorneys for both sides are expected to give closing arguments in the penalty phase of the case aimed at deciding whether convicted killer Wade Wilson will face the death penalty for killing 2 women in 2019.

FOX 4's Senior Reporter Kaitlin Knapp will be back in the courtroom to bring you what happens later today on fox4now.com and FOX 4 News at 5:00.

***ORIGINAL REPORTING***

Convicted Cape Coral murderer, Wade Wilson, is facing life or death: a decision that will come from inside a Lee County courtroom.

A week ago, Wilson was found guilty of killing Kristine Melton and Diane Ruiz in October 2019.

On Monday, family members of the murdered women spoke to the jury, along with doctors who evaluated Wilson.

"He selected, he secluded and he strangled," said Assistant State Attorney Andreas Gardiner during opening statements of the penalty phase.

The penalty phase means both sides will bring in their own evidence and experts. State attorneys are trying to convince a jury Wilson should be put to death.

Defense attorneys are trying to spare Wilson's life.

The State has to prove aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of the factors State attorneys are going for include being a felony probation in commission of a crime, committed in a cold, calculated and pre-meditated manner, convicted of another capital felony and committed a heinous crime.

The defense, however, looks at mitigating factors. Some of those could include their character, specific circumstances when the crime happened and past circumstances.

"This portion of the trial is critical. It's critical to you [jury] and it's critical to Mr. Wilson," said Wilson's attorney, Kevin Shirley.

The first witness from the State's side was Melton's best friend and cousin, Samantha, who spoke about her family's loss.

"It is gut wrenching to see them [cousin's children] so destroyed. They were robbed of her," she said. "Kristine will never experience motherhood."

Samantha said Melton's mother was never the same after her daughter was murdered.

"With one exception, I would not wish it on my worst enemy," she said. "Kristine was strong, independent and loyal."

As pictures of Melton were shown in court, Samantha addressed Wilson and said, "Look at her. You can see it. I know you can."

Next to the stand is Zane Romero, Ruiz's son. He was 14 when his mom was killed.

"I trusted my gut so much. Everything told me she was coming home," Romero said. "Nothing that happened to her was ever deserved."

Romero said his mom's life was stripped away on a random weekday, and he never got to experience things a young boy does in high school.

The mood in the courtroom shifted when doctors took the stand. They evaluated Wilson over two to three days.

The defense brought in neuropsychologist Dr. Hyman Eisenstein. He said Wilson had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective and other mental illnesses.

Eisenstein said Wilson has a neurocognitive impairment by citing tests Wilson did during the evaluation and the results of those tests.

He also went into his childhood between his adoption, injuries from sports, a drug overdose and other circumstances.

"There’s enough data to support that his brain is not functioning like a normal, healthy individual," he said.

However, Assistant State Attorney Sara Miller questioned Wilson's diagnoses and what the doctor did not evaluate in the case.

"You think it might be important to listen to a statement the defendant made three days after the murder to gauge the defendant’s cognitive function?" Miller asked.

Eisenstein replied yes, but said he did not listen to the statement.

He was one of two doctors the defense called. Following the last doctor, the defense rested their case with Wilson choosing not to testify.

The State brought Dr. Michael Herkov, a neuropsychologist, to the stand, who also looked at Wilson's records and evaluations.

"These are serious diagnoses. These are not just something that you’re just going to sort of miss, and so that whole time there was no history of any of that [Wilson's diagnoses]," Herkov said.

Another one of Wilson's defense attorneys, Lee Hollander, pushed back during cross examination, asking Herkov if he has ever run into a case where Herkov knows someone said something, but he disagrees. Herkov hesitated and said he didn't recall.

Closing statements are expected to start Tuesday morning. Then, the jury will decide whether they recommend life in prison of death or death. But, ultimately, the judge will make the final decision.