Wife of accused cop killer takes the stand

The wife of cop-killer suspect Dennis Escobar took the witness stand Wednesday, describing how she took him and his brother to a canal to dump the gun believed used in the March 1988 murder.

Fatima Berrios testified that she also recalled taking the Escobar brothers to a South Miami-Dade car dealership, where they stole a Mazda believed used in the killing.

Escobar is accused of fatally shooting Miami Officer Victor Estefan after a traffic stop in Little Havana. He faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Douglas Escobar, who prosecutors say drove the stolen Mazda and ordered his brother to shoot, is awaiting trial. Both originally were convicted in 1991, a decision later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.

Wednesday marked the first time in more than two weeks that jurors heard testimony.

The case was delayed after a police audiotape was found depicting Escobar invoking his right to remain silent during a police interview. But a judge ruled Monday that Escobar backtracked, inviting detectives to return to the prison hospital room for more questioning.

On Wednesday, Berrios told jurors that sometime before the murder, she drove the brothers to a dealership, where Douglas drove off with the gray Mazda. After the murder, Berrios recalled, she saw damage to the rear bumper — where prosecutors say the Escobars hit Estefan’s patrol car as they escaped.

Douglas’ fingerprint was later found inside the car.

She also remembered her husband arriving to their apartment the night of the murder, acting “nervous.” She presumed Douglas was with him. “I could hear his voice,” she told prosecutor Reid Rubin.

Berrios also recalled driving the brothers to a canal, where she stayed in the car while they dumped a bag containing the alleged murder weapon.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Phil Reizenstein pointed out that she only remembered Douglas — not Dennis — driving the stolen car and possessing the handgun. He also suggested that Berrios felt threatened when she gave statements to Miami homicide detectives in 1988.

The defense attorney also pointed out that Berrios had testified in the first trial that her husband arrived sometime after 9 p.m., suggesting he might have been home at the time of the 9:30 p.m. shooting. She also admitted to prosecutors that she wasn’t exactly sure when he came home that night.

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