The trial of two South Floridians, accused of bludgeoning to death a female traveling companion at an Eastpoint motel in April 2018, will face trial in April, barring any unforeseen delays.
Circuit Judge Charles Dodson has set April 17 for jury selection in the trial of Zachary Abell, 31, of North Miami Beach, and Christina Araujo, 39, of Loxahatchee.
At Monday’s case management hearing, Abell’s public defender, Katelyn Crosson, assistant regional conflict counsel out of Panama City, asked for a delay in the trial date to afford her sufficient time to review additional analysis being performed on evidence in the hands of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Next to Crosson stood Abell, while Apalachicola attorney Donna Duncan, who is assisting in his defense, pro bono, also sat nearby.
Arauajo was not present at the hearing. Her two attorneys, James P. Judkins, of Tallahassee, and Scott Richardson, of Palm Beach, participated via telephone.
Dodson did not reschedule the expected date of trial.
Arauajo’s attorneys last spring filed a motion for separate trials, which Abell’s defense team supported. The motion by Judkins and Richardson argued that out-of-court statements made by Abell could pose a problem in the event he chose to testify and Araujo did not.
“Accordingly, a separate trial for Ms. Araujo is necessary to avoid violating her confrontation rights, and, ultimately, to assure Ms. Araujo of a fair determination of her guilt or innocence,” they wrote.
In a June 12 order, Dodson said the motion to sever the two trials was moot.
“At the scheduled hearing the state announced it would not introduce the out-of-court statements of the two defendants,” wrote Dodson. “No arguments were made on the motion in view of the state’s announcement that the statements would not be offered into evidence.”
What is expected to be introduced at trial, in which both defendants are charged with second-degree murder, which carries a possible life sentence, and tampering with evidence, is a grisly scenario in which 31-year-old Aileen Seiden was brutally beaten inside of a room at the Sportsman Lodge in Eastpoint, and then her lifeless body dumped in a ditch off U.S. 98.
Law enforcement officials believe the fateful road trip began several days earlier when Abell and Seiden drove together from Miami to Texas, and later Araujo flew there to join in the trio’s return trip to South Florida.
After the three arrived in Franklin County that weekend, witnesses say they spent time at the Red Pirate and later enjoyed a barbecue at the lodge, enhanced by the downing of a large bottle of Fireball cinnamon whiskey they bought earlier that day at 98 Liquors.
Following the late night fight that led to Seiden’s death, and the dumping of her body, the alleged perpetrators drove back to South Florida. There they met up with a mutual friend in Davie, who soon learned enough of what they told him happened, to report the matter to Broward County police.
The two were arrested and extradited to the Franklin County Jail, first Abell on May 2, 2018, and then followed a week later by Araujo, her additional days of freedom spent in the hospital recovering from what officials said was a spider bite.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis denied them bond, and each has been incarcerated in separate jails outside the county.