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Seiden trial won’t be until fall

David Adlerstein
dadlerstein@starfl.com

It will be no earlier than October, and likely later than that, when the trial of two South Floridians, accused of bludgeoning to death a female traveling companion at an Eastpoint motel in April 2018, will take place.

At a hearing Monday afternoon in the Apalachicola courthouse, newly assigned Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom set the next case management hearing for Monday, Sept. 14 in the upcoming trial of Zachary Abell, 31, of North Miami Beach, and Christina Araujo, 39, of Loxahatchee.

Both defendants are charged with second-degree murder, which carries a possible life sentence, and tampering with evidence, as part of 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.

Abell’s public defender, Katelyn Crosson, assistant regional conflict counsel out of Panama City, took part in the Zoom hearing, as did Araujo’s attorneys, James P. Judkins, of Tallahassee, and Scott Richardson, of Palm Beach.

“My understanding is there is additional evidence at the lab,” Crosson told the judge. “We’re all going to do additional depositions. We are in need of additional information before this case will be ready.”

Assistant State Attorney Jared Patterson declined to provide Sjostrom (pronounced Shur-strum ) with a firm date when he believed the state and defense counsel would be ready for trial.

“As far as the lab goes, the stuff’s been there a couple months now,” he said. “As far as depositions go, the last deposition is the crucial witness involved in this.”

Judkins told the judge that he and Richardson would continue to appear via Zoom, based on the terms of an order that they need not appear in person.

“Zoom will continue to be available for the rest of our lives for routine proceedings,” said Sjostrom.

He added that Monday’s court session had special meaning for him.

“It’s my first day doing Franklin County circuit criminal,” said the judge. “This is a historical day.”