The Dateline episode “Mystery in South Beach” investigates the death of 21-year-old Wendy Trapaga. Just four days after marrying Michel Escoto in October 2002, the body of the young bride was found beaten to death in an empty warehouse in Miami-Dade. Her new husband was a suspect. He stood to collect a million dollar insurance policy on his new wife. During his murder trial in 2014, Escoto’s ex-girlfriend, Yolanda Cerrillo, testified that she helped him practice killing his wife. Cerrillo said Escoto originally planned to drown her. (Cerrillo received immunity in exchange for her testimony.)
For most of the trial, Escoto acted as his own attorney which caused much drama in the courtroom. During the month-long trial, he cross-examined his former mother-in-law, Myriam Benitez, and the attorney representing Wendy’s family in the civil case. When the Trapaga family’s civil attorney, Jorge Borron, testified and called Escoto a murderer, Escoto threatened Borron. Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez sentenced Escoto to 30 days in jail for contempt of court. Escoto was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Episodes of Dateline Real Life Mysteries air on TLC at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm on TLC.