It took nearly a full day last week to get a jury seated in the Michael Colucci murder trial, since the jury has heard testimony from investigators, past friends, strangulation experts and funeral home employees. Meantime a chilly start between the defense attorney and the judge has started to warm a little.
Before the weekend break on Friday, an agent from SLED testified about trace evidence found at the scene on North Main Street in Summerville, outside the business the couple ran.
The witness said a lot of the evidence gathered at the scene had both Colucci’s DNA, and some of the tests came back inconclusive regarding Michael, which left no obvious conclusion for on DNA evidence.
Also the funereal home employee who handled Sara’s services said the funeral home had to wait to cremate Sara’s body because of the pending investigation. He also said he was ordered by Michael Colucci and his attorney not to embalm Sara’s body.
Prosecutors seemed to want to make that delay seem suspicious, but the defense said it was more about preserving evidence than destroying it. The funeral home employee also said Michael Colucci waited six months before picking up Sara’s ashes.
There was discussion about Colucci violating the terms of his bond because the victim’s mother told the court Michael had said something to her during a break in the trial about the impact on his family.
Judge Deadra Jefferson said his bond states he should have no contact with the victim’s family and if there was a violation of the bond agreement that would have to the be determined later in a separate hearing.
On Monday, the prosecution, who told the jury last week their case is based on reasonable doubt, rested its case after presenting text messages to shed light on the Colucci’s volatile relationship. The defense will then begin to present its evidence.
Also during the second and final week of the trial, the jury will head to the crime scene in Summerville to gain some perspective on the distance between Sara and Michael back in May of 2015.
The jury now consists of 10 men and four women, that number includes two alternates. One juror was released for personal reasons before testimony started last week.
During motions last week, as Colucci’s defense attorney Andy Savage was addressing the judge, things got a little heated, indicating a rocky relationship between the well-known Charleston attorney and Jefferson.
Jefferson warned Savage about speaking over her and later said “Mr. Savage I will not have this grandstanding.”
Later, while inquiring about the list of motions, Savage indicated there was a lack of communication from the judge, which Jefferson denied. Savage replied telling the judge, “Eyebrows don’t communicate well.”
There was also an incident when Savage asked the court to show him more respect and that the non-verbal reactions to some of his requests from the judge during the trial seem dismissive.
Testimony started on Nov. 27. Both the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office were questioned about how the investigation into Sara Colucci’s death was handled.
Michael Colucci’s defense will attempt to focus on the late Sara Colucci, calling into question her mental state, substance abuse issues, her previous husband and even her bathroom habits.
Assistant Attorney General Joel Kozak told the jury Michael Colucci wanted to kill his wife in May 2015.
He said the couple had money problems but liked to keep up appearances in certain social circles. He also said what the jury will hear will not put Sara in a good a light.
“You’re going to hear that Sara drinks; she likes to pick fights,” said Kozak.
Prosecutors want to prove Sara’s death was not accident. “Does it make sense that Sara hung herself in broad daylight less than 25 feet away from the defendant?” asked Kozak during opening arguments.
Savage cross examined trying to poke holes into the investigation and Sara Colucci’s mental state.
“Accident, suicide or homicide—a determination that as of today, the agencies involved required by law to make that decision, can’t do it,” Savage told the jury.
“Look for the distortion in your lives caused by alcohol and drugs, look for the evidence of the psychiatric intervention to help with the mental health issues of the deceased,” Savage said.
Late last week testimony from an expert witness set the stage for a dramatic cross examination and neighbors of Michael and Sara Colucci said the couple’s marriage, had become more strained in the months before her death.
The prosecution called an expert witness, Dr. William Smock, who works for the Louisville Metro Police Department. Smock performs clinical forensic evaluations in strangulation.
He testified he trains law enforcement, including federal agents, on how to investigate strangulation.
The prosecution wants to prove it was not a hose coiled into a chain-link fence that killed Colucci. Smock also testified to Assistant Attorney General Joel Kozak about what happens in a fatal strangulation or hanging.
Photos of Sara Colucci’s injuries were shown as Smock pointed out, farrows or divots around the neck. He said there are three distinct farrows. Farrows are caused from pressure and the divots are made as the blood leaves the area.
“Those are the type of injuries you see when the neck in squeezed with an object, hands or fingers,” said Smock.
“From what you reviewed in your expert opinion are the injuries to the victim consistent with a hanging?” asked Kozak.
“Absolutely not,” said Smock.
Smock said it could have been the necklace she was wearing and could have been used to strangle her.
During cross examination on Thursday defense attorney Andy Savage asked Smock when he received the case files and Smock said July of 2018.
Seeming to foreshadow the follow-up question, Savage asked what was included in the files.
“The autopsy report, the autopsy photographs, the scene photographs, the reports from the investigation, the reports of the investigating officers,” Smock said.
Judge Jefferson said closing arguments should begin late this week on Thursday or early Friday. It will then be up to the jury to decide the fate of Michael Colucci. If found guilty Colucci faces up to 30 years in prison.