The case for murder against a Roosevelt man is built upon one lie after another told by the victim’s daughter — who is just as likely to be the person who killed her mother, the man’s defense attorney told a jury during his closing argument Monday in Riverhead.
Someone crushed the skull of Saundra Simonée, 59, in her East Norwich living room Sept. 26, 2013, and Suffolk prosecutors say only two other adults were in the house then — her daughter, Shatura Simonée, 29, and her boyfriend, Antonio Christian, 28, who is on trial charged with first-degree murder.
But defense attorney Steven Wilutis spent almost all of his 37-minute closing argument attacking Shatura Simonée, who testified against the man she said she still loves. She told so many lies — and has the motivation to tell more — that she can’t be trusted, Wilutis said.
“I submit there is doubt, based in reason, all over this case,” Wilutis said. “Without her testimony, the people would have nothing.”
After Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe gives her closing argument Tuesday, the jury will deliberate.
Wilutis acknowledged that his client dumped the body in Bay Shore, but said he did so only at the request of his girlfriend. “Proof that he dumped the body is not proof that he killed her,” Wilutis said.
Wilutis said the only evidence against Christian came from the lying mouth of Shatura Simonée. No forensic evidence identified the killer.
Simonée has told numerous versions of how her mother died, changing her story repeatedly until a month before the trial began before state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen.
“If you discount the testimony of Shatura Simonée, there is absolutely no proof that my client committed this crime,” Wilutis said.
He noted that Simonée made a deal with prosecutors to point the finger at Christian, and even then couldn’t stop lying. She initially got a deal for 4 to 12 years in prison for her testimony, but when she said in January that the murder weapon was a hammer and not a ceramic elephant, the deal changed to 6 to 18 years.
Even that is better than life without parole, and Simonée testified during cross-examination that she would say anything to avoid a sentence like that.
The latest version of her story makes no sense in combination with other evidence, Wilutis said. Text messages show she apologized to Christian after the murder. And she fretted about a broken nail then, yet testified she didn’t break the nail until later, when she was scrubbing her mother’s blood off the floor.
It’s more likely that she killed her mother, Wilutis said.
“It’s like a rage killing,” Wilutis said, with at least 10 blows to Saundra Simonée’s head. An angry daughter is more likely to have done that than a visiting boyfriend, Wilutis said.