TAMPA, Fla. — The second week of Nicole Nachtman's murder trial was off to a late start Monday as conversation swirled around a self-defense and insanity plea for the record.
Nachtman faces two first-degree, premeditated murder charges after being accused of shooting and killing her mother and stepfather, Myriam and Robert Dienes. Law enforcement said they were both found dead from gunshot wounds in their Carrollwood home on Aug. 20, 2015.
Nachtman, who was 21 at the time, originally claimed she was at Florida State University in Tallahassee when the murders happened. The school told detectives her FSU ID had not been used in the previous seven days.
Three witnesses were cleared to testify Friday after rumors circulated about the witnesses watching a livestream of the trial and discussing the trial ahead of time.
Defense continues to argue for insanity
There was a brief and seemingly heated exchange Monday morning between the judge and the defense in terms of context and misleading the jury with Nachtman and her talking about "Elsa," the character from the movie "Frozen" during the trial.
The judge decided to continue on the trial and it was acknowledged a video of Nachtman discussing Elsa during an interview would not be seen before the jury. The judge brought in the jury a little after 10 a.m., adding the trial should only last until Friday afternoon.
Detective Samuel Portalatin was brought to the podium once again, and the prosecution acknowledged it had no further questions for him.
Nachtman's interview with detectives
Portalatin testified regarding Nacthman's interview and confirmed to the defense that Nachtman requested an art book to draw on after telling a story about "Elsa the Snow Queen." The prosecution took to the stand to question Portalatin again, where the detective confirmed Nachtman requested an attorney.
He also said Nachtman appeared calm, but also was seen pacing the room. Portalatin said he was trying to keep her calm and talking. During cross-examination, the defense asked if Nachtman said, "I think I've cried everything out for now," during the interview and he testified she did.
The autopsy results
Shortly after, Leszek Chrostowski -- a forensic and associated medical examiner with Hillsborough County -- was brought forward to testify. He testified the crime scene is under the jurisdiction of the police, but the body is under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner in Florida.
When he discussed Myriam's body, he said there was a gunshot wound to the head, abrasions on the forehead, and a gunshot wound to the torso and abdominal area. He testified Robert was found partially wrapped in a comforter and found with a gunshot to the back of the neck.
Chrostowski testified he performed the autopsy on Myriam's body, including the external and internal examination for observation of cause of death. He testified the gunshot wounds demonstrated close-range firing with two feet, with "marginal abrasion in a circular fashion."
He added during his testimony that all three gunshot wounds Myriam experienced were fatal and caused a "large collection of the blood to the wound area."
Cause of death was officially determined as a homicide for Myriam Dienes, the medical examiner testified. He added there is no precise way of measuring the official time of death since that is something "only done in movies," he said. He did testify, however, there was about a day in between the deaths of Robert and Myriam.
The cause of death for Robert Dienes, Nachtman's stepfather, was a gunshot wound and the manner of death was a homicide, the medical examiner testified. There were no defense wounds to either, he also said.
Following a short break, the medical examiner was cross-examined by the defense. He was asked about the medical conditions of both Robert and Myriam Dienes and testified Robert had hypertensive heart disease upon his death and both "collapsed" after being shot.
The crime scene from the shooting
Yolanda Soto with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tampa came forward to testify about the gun and bullets used in the crime scene. Four bullet casings, a red silicone tip and a gun magazine were extracted from the case when she started to investigate in September 2015, Soto testified.
All four of the .380 caliber casings extracted from the case were connected to the same gun, she said. The marking on the magazine was determined to match a 9-millimeter handgun with a .380 auto caliber ammunition capability, which she testified was also consistent with the same gun as the bullets.
The trial started up again around 1:30 p.m. Monday as the state brought in Kimberly Sutton, a DNA analyst with FDLE, as a witness. She testified her role is to look at and investigate a small part of the one percent of DNA which makes a person unique.
She also testified DNA from Nachtman and the Dienes were discovered at the scene. During cross-examination, the defense questioned the legitimacy of the DNA discovered.
Nachtman's former roommate testifies
The defense brought forth its first witness, Jacquelyn Roman-Eismann via Skype and a notary swore her in from afar. Eismann, now a stay-at-home mom, testified she was previously one of Nachtman's roommates. She also testified she thought it was strange none of her family helped her to settle into the room, and she said neither the parents nor the family ever came to visit when she lived with her from 2014 to 2015.
"She kind of looked like a mess, there were things everywhere," Eismann said of Nachtman. "She had a lot of layers of clothes on, and I know it's kind of overwhelming moving in things by yourself, there was a lot of commotion for her. She didn't seem so clean, she had a scent to her, I just didn't say anything to her because I just met her and I didn't want to make her uncomfortable."
Eismann went on to describe her roommate experiences with Nachtman, including her part of the room being especially dirty. She also testified Nachtman was on a "nocturnal" sleep schedule, sleeping all day and staying up all night playing games on her laptop. She said she had two separate laptops, one for school and one for the games she would play on Tumblr.
She said one of her biggest issues with Nachtman was her level of hygiene and the smell which lingered in the room because of her. She said she felt bad because she made Nachtman cry and feel bad after yelling at her about her hygiene. Nachtman only showered every few days, she added.
She also said Nachtman only wore one pair of shoes for the entire year she lived with her. Eismann testified she also witnessed Nachtman sleeping in the hallway and when she asked her why she wasn't sleeping in the room, she said Nachtman told her, "I'm just taking a quick nap."
Eismann testified she never brought any family or friends around the room, but did say she had a best friend named "Laura" she shared necklaces with.
Eismann added she felt uncomfortable sleeping with Nachtman in the room since she "felt like someone was watching her." She testified Nachtman never looked in the mirror and seemed to always be in a rush to get out the door, putting on layers of clothing which she said was strange since it was 95 degrees in Florida.
She said Nachtman told Eismann she had to change her major from history to public relations because there was "no career path" in history.
"She told me about her plastic surgery [liposuction] which is why she said she had to wear tight pantyhose," Eismann said via Skype.
Eismann also testified about the relationship she saw between Nachtman and her mother and said Nachtman always appeared timid with her. She said Nachtman admitted she changed her grades so her mom wouldn't find out how she was doing in school and that Nachtman did not appear "excited" to go home in between breaks.
She testified Nachtman did not look forward to the breaks since "her mom made her be someone she wasn't," such as getting her nails or hair done.
Eismann also testified she thought Nachtman's serious and ongoing obsession with Elsa the Disney character was very strange. She said it got to the point she had Elsa-themed purses, makeup, pens, and other things, even going as far as dying her hair to look like Elsa. She said Nachtman even got private sewing lessons and ordered specific shoes to make an Elsa costume outside of Halloween.
During cross-examination, the prosecution argued Nachtman's behavior may be strange, but only as strange as something Eismann might not be comfortable with. Eismann said yes, but furthermore, it was the most strange for her that Nachtman "appeared to live in a fantasy world."
Connie Bell with the FDLE in Tampa was brought forward as another witness for the prosecution and testified about the GPS pinpoints extracted from the Garmin device. Bell said the GPS showed the locations of Nachtman's car from August 19-21, 2015.
During cross-examination, the defense questioned the direction of the vehicle and Bell testified the car showed movement in the early hours of the 21st on I-75 to Tallahassee.
The lead detective in the case is brought forward
Following a short break, Detective Messer was called to the witness stand as the lead detective and investigator of the case. He said he arrived at the scene of the shooting around 11 p.m. on Aug. 20, 2015.
The state moved to bring to evidence a recorded phone conversation between Nachtman and Messer. During the conversation, Nachtman is heard telling him "I've been in Tallahassee for the last day or two or so."
Nachtman appeared to be disoriented while talking to Messer in the phone call. She said she was driving around campus and needed to call him back. Messer testified she never called him back after the recorded phone call was played for the jury in its entirety.
After not being able to get in touch with Nachtman, Nachtman's uncle had a controlled phone conversation with Nachtman as well. During the phone conversation, she claimed she left really late on Wed., Aug. 19. As he was asking her about what she knew about the shooting and told her what happened, she got quiet and eventually said, "Mom doesn't get along with as many people as you think." She also claimed her mother and stepfather "were always at each other's throat."
Messer testified he arrived in Tallahassee and immediately via FDLE's helicopter and made contact with law enforcement. He said three different search warrants were being executed, including Nachtman's dorm, her DNA, and her vehicle.
Pictures of the inside and outside of Nachtman's red vehicle were shown to the jury, which Messer testified was registered to Myriam, Nachtman's mother.
Messer testified the locations of the Garmin GPS in Nachtman's vehicle corresponded to around the area and time of the murder.
During cross-examination, Messer testified he may have arrived at the scene at a later time. He later adds Nachtman hadn't quite arrived in Tallahassee during the controlled conversation, which was reaffirmed with the information she hadn't checked in until after 9 a.m.
Messer testified Nachtman had tried to call his office instead of his cell phone after he talked to her the first time and he said he discovered a voicemail from her. During cross-examination, he testified Nachtman did not appear to "grasp" the reality of the situation and said she continued to discuss the character Elsa during his interview with her.
He was asked to read a conversation between Myriam and Nachtman, which included Nachtman being told by Myriam to watch her weight and how she should monitor her meals, including "staying away from bread."
The prosecution asked Messer again about the interview and Messer testified Nachtman said she didn't want their conversations to be recorded "until an attorney was present." The prosecution also had Messer read a further conversation between Nachtman and Myriam, which included Myriam telling Nachtman, "I want you to look your best for the new school year."
The jury is dismissed, evidence is questioned on relevancy
The defense moved to provide further photos to be presented as evidence after a previous objection from the state after the jury was dismissed for the day. The defense said one was a photo of Nachtman's caretaker at a certain age and a photo of Nachtman with her brother.
The state objected to the heresy of some of the records, which conveyed Nachtman was "ready to snap" and did not give the state an ability to cross-examine the people who were apart of the conversation. One of the records in question indicates Myriam was notified of the bullying of Nachtman and did not appear to intervene or react.
Judge Sabella ruled it as unsubstantial evidence to be presented to the jury since the author is not present to indicate its authenticity.
"It's a floodgate I don't intend to open," Sabella said.
The defense introduced DCF and court filings as evidence to be introduced to the jury Tuesday, as well as clips of video of Nachtman's interview.
The state is expected to bring Joseph Kerry, Nachtman's brother, forward to testify at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
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