As the trial next month nears for the two co-defendants accused of bludgeoning to death a South Florida woman five years ago in an Eastpoint motel, one of them has filed a motion to have the entire case dismissed against her.
West Palm Beach attorney Scott Richardson on Dec. 22 filed a motion before Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom to dismiss all three of the felony counts – first-degree murder, accessory after the fact and tampering with physical evidence – against his client, Christina Araujo, 43, of Loxahatchee.
Facing the same three charges are co-defendant Zachary Abell, 35, of North Miami Beach. The two are accused of the murder of Aileen Seiden, 31, at the Sportsman’s Lodge on April 23, 2018, leaving her body on a cul-de-sac just off U.S. 98 near Yent’s Bayou, and then returning to South Florida where they were later arrested and extradited back to Franklin County. They have remained in the Franklin County Jail ever since.
In his motion, Richardson writes that the “undisputed material facts” are that Araujo was seen together with Abell and Seiden at the lodge on April 22, and that Seiden’s body was later discovered, but that during the investigation “no evidence was found there that would suggest Christina Araujo had any connection with Ms. Seiden’s death.”
Richardson’s motion relates that Araujo and Abell were each arrested in Broward County after visiting the home of Michael Picavet. “There are no statements to law enforcement that would inculcate Ms. Araujo in Ms. Seiden’s death,” the motion asserts, as well as nothing that would incriminate her in the other two alleged felonies.
In April 2019, Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who was overseeing the case at the time, denied a motion to have each of the defendants tried separately. In their motion at the time, Araujo’s defense attorneys were concerned that Abell’s statements to Picavet were “of such a character that they would clearly compel a reasonable person to infer Ms. Araujo’s guilt.”
In his latest motion, Richardson argues that “there is no statement which could be admitted against Ms. Araujo that inculpates her.”
The motion argues that “the vehicle in which Ms. Araujo was seen after the discovery of the deceased was seized and searched,” revealed no incriminating evidence against her. The two defendants and Seiden had arrived at the lodge in a grey Honda two-door coupe, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The motion says circumstantial evidence leads to the conclusion that Seiden’s injuries were inflicted in Room 15, and that a search of the room, and the forensic processing and examination of items retrieved from the room, did not inculpate Araujo.
“No evidence at Mr. Picavet’s home inculpates Ms. Aruajo,” reads the motion. “There is no admissible testimonial or physical evidence inculpating Ms. Aruajo in any of the crimes with which she has been charged.”
Sjostrom is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss on or before a hearing slated for Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m. in his courtroom in Tallahassee.
Beginning last month, Assistant State Attorney Jarred Patterson began issuing subpoenas for law enforcement and medical personnel related to the case, ordering them to appear Feb. 15, the expected start date of the trial.
Subpoenaed were Victoria Perras, Ivan Brenes, Amy George, Sean Wheeler, Jason Ravenel and Diane Guzman, all with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as Dr. Anthony Clark, the medical examiner serving Franklin County.