Jurors did not hear of Gerard Lopes Belmonte's alleged rape of his stepmother, Natalie Belmonte, during the first day of trial. The prosecution is arguing that this led to Lopes' murdering Belmonte to cover up the sex crime.
But that changed Thursday, when Natalie's sister, Michaela Teixeira, took the stand, telling the jury that the defense's contention that Lopes and Belmonte had consensual sex was false.
During the first day of trial on Monday, prosecutor Adriana Alcalde-Padron bypassed the claims of DNA evidence that showed semen found in the victim's body.
The defense grilled Texiera, arguing that Lopes and Belmonte were very close and even insinuated that Natalie supposedly had casual sexual encounters with men following her divorce.
Belmonte, who was Lopes' first cousin, adopted him after his father died in 2000.
She vanished following a graduation party she and Lopes attended in Pembroke Pines in July 2011.
The following morning, Lopes told family members that Belmonte had disappeared. Police eventually found that her purse, cell phone, and keys were still in the house.
Belmonte's decomposing body was discovered three days later, dumped in a wooded area.
Eventually, investigators were able to find witnesses who reported seeing blood-stained sheets being carried away by someone from a dumpster.
Police soon found surveillance footage reportedly showing Lopes putting Belmonte's body in the trunk of her Lexus.
"He threw her away like she was garbage," Alcalde-Padron told jurors on Monday.
On Thursday, the defense tried to hang their consensual-sex argument on Astrid Moreno, a former coworker of the murdered woman. Moreno testified that Lopes and Belmonte did not act like a mother and son would, implying there was more going on there than a regular relationship.
Moreno, who was at the party the night Belmonte disappeared, said that she and Lopes were arguing and that he "wanted more out of her than being a mother."
But when the prosecution cross-examined Moreno, she eventually said that Belmonte didn't look at Lopes as anything more than a son.
Gerard Belmonte has a sketchy past, as well as mental-health issues. Shortly before the crime, he had been in jail for an unrelated incident. According to one report, he had told his fellow Broward County Jail inmates he had fantasies of killing his mother.
Closing arguments will resume on Monday. If convicted, Lopes faces life in prison.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!