One of two people at an East Norwich woman’s home “pulverized” her skull with a hammer two years ago, but attorneys argued Monday to a jury about whether it was the woman’s daughter or the daughter’s boyfriend.
Suffolk prosecutors say it was the boyfriend, Antonio Christian, 28, of Roosevelt who did it. He is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 26, 2013, death of Saundra Simonée, 59.
But Christian’s defense says it is just as likely that Simonée’s daughter, Shatura Simonée, 29, did it, noting that she never called police, helped empty her dead mother’s bank account and has told ever-shifting versions of what happened in the house.
What is undisputed is that Shatura Simonée, who lived with her mother, had Christian over in violation of an order of protection meant to keep him away from the couple’s young children, now 7 and 4. When Saundra Simonée realized he was there, she demanded he leave, Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe told jurors in her opening statement before state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead.
Christian responded by punching her and breaking her jaw, Newcombe said.
“It is at this point, ladies and gentlemen, that the greed sets in,” Newcombe said. Christian took the victim’s ATM card from her purse and demanded the PIN, Newcombe said.
Every time she refused to give it up, Newcombe said Christian stuck a knife in her side. Finally, when he threatened the children, she gave up the number and Shatura Simonée went to the bank and took out $500.
“You are not going to like Shatura Simonée,” Newcombe told jurors. The daughter pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation in the case and is awaiting sentencing.
Eventually, the victim was sitting on her floor holding a bag of frozen peas on her jaw, pleading with Christian to let her go to the hospital. That’s when he hit her with a hammer, Newcombe said.
“He hits her, and she moans,” Newcombe said. “He hits her over and over and over again, until Saundra moans no more.”
Christian and Shatura Simonée then went to sleep, Newcombe said. The next day, after dropping the kids off at school, they raided the dead woman’s bank account again. That night, while Shatura Simonée cleaned up the blood-spattered home, Christian wrapped the victim in a pink sheet, put her in her Mercedes-Benz and drove to Bay Shore where he put the body behind a trash container at an apartment complex while a resident watched.
Defense attorney Steven Wilutis conceded that his client dumped the body, but he said the only evidence that his client was the killer is the untrustworthy word of Shatura Simonée.
“Who decides she’s testifying truthfully?” he said. “Not the judge. Not me, not you. The DA decides.”
He noted that she lied about her involvement and that her story about what happened has changed as recently as a few weeks ago, when she said the murder weapon was a hammer. Until then, she had said it was a ceramic elephant.
Later Monday, Vanessa Leftenant, a resident at the Bay Shore apartment complex, testified that she saw Christian at her building’s trash container “holding a pink thing upright” while she was outside the laundry room.
She said she thought then that it was a rug, but that morning when she looked again, she saw a foot and blood and realized it was a body. She then called police.