Dr. Anthony Clark points to details on the autopsy photos of Aileen Seiden as Circuit Judge Frank Allman listens at left. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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‘The kind of thing I see in motor vehicle crashes’

Following harrowing testimony of how Aileen Seiden was beaten so badly that nearly all her ribs were broken, with neither of her traveling companions ever summoning medical care, the jury in the murder trial of Zachary Abell will hear closing arguments Friday morning.

The 14 Franklin County residents, two of them alternates, will then decide to what extent the 36-year-old North Miami Beach man is responsible for the death of 31-year-old Aileen Seiden nearly six years ago in a room at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Eastpoint.



Circuit Judge Frank Allman sent the jurors home mid-morning Thursday and asked them to return before 9 a.m. Friday. The rest of the day was spent with the two prosecutors, Assistant State Attorney Jarred Patterson and his colleague Eddie Evans, and Tallahassee defense attorney Alex Morris seated alongside Abell, hammering out the instructions that Allman will provide the jury Friday as to what options they have in determining Abell’s culpability.

The extent of Seiden’s injuries were so extensive that Allman issued an order Wednesday limiting the media’s publication to just three of the many autopsy photos taken by Dr. Anthony Clark, the former chief medical examiner for the 2nd Judicial Circuit. 

Now an associate medical examiner in Macon, Georgia, Clark, a seasoned forensic pathologist, was working in Tallahassee in April 2018 when Seiden’s body was brought to his examination table.

By that time, days after her body had been found on April 23 by April and Christopher Russell in a ditch alongside a cul-de-sac in a vacant subdivision just east of the Franklin County School, Clark said there were maggots in her air and her belly was distended.

Extensive bruising had turned the face and portions of the abdomen and upper body of the once attractive brunette into a hideous purple.

“These bruises and lacerations were caused by multiple blows to her face,” said Clark, speaking in the calm, detached tone of a physician who has conducted more than 7,600 autopsies in his career. “This is all blunt force trauma, of something hard hitting her face multiple times.”

He said there were injuries to the inside of mouth, from her lips being smacked up against her teeth, but no damage to her teeth. In addition, there was damage to her hands.

“You’ll cover your face and the blows impact your hand,” Clark said, as he pointed on the giant screen to bruises that were “consistent with her hand being struck.”

Defendant Zachary Abell watches as the autopsy photos of Aileen Seiden are shown to the jury. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

Seiden had lacerations and hemorrhaging below the skin around her feminine body parts that he said were consistent with “something maybe inserted in there and too large.”

He said all the ribs on her left side were broken and four or five ribs on her right side. “That’s the kind of thing I see in motor vehicle crashes,” Clark said. “From the violent force that goes on at that level.”

The pathologist said injuries to the mesentery, the membrane that attaches the colon to the walls of the abdomen had been torn in half, and there was extensive hemorrhaging.

“Those occurred due to multiple blows to the abdomen,” Clark said. “The cause of death was blunt force to the head and chest and abdominal trauma. They were overlapping each other. 

“Initially at the time of the autopsy I did not know if a weapon was used. I was thinking more hands and feet,” he said.

He later agreed with a question from Patterson that they could also have been caused by some sort of hard blunt instrument.

“I couldn’t say for sure,” Clark said, noting only that they were likely not caused by a knife or a similar “cutting or piercing” instrument. “This was a violent assault.”

In response to jurors’ questions, Clark said there were no drugs in Seiden’s system, and that she had a blood alcohol level of .377, four times the level when a person is considered legally intoxicated.

But, he stressed, some bacteria ferment and can produce alcohol, and so such a level  could be attributable to post-mortem effects, particularly since her eye fluid did not have an elevated blood alcohol level.

According to the testimony Wednesday morning by Christina Araujo, the only eyewitness to the incident, Seiden had been intoxicated on Sunday, April 23, the afternoon that she, Seiden and Abell had spent enjoying a BBQ afternoon at the lodge.

Araujo, 44, of Palm Beach, was, like Abell, initially charged with first-degree murder, accessory after the fact of a capital felony and tampering with physical evidence. But in May 2023 she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. Her attorney, Scott Richardson, of West Palm Beach, sat in the courtroom, on a bench several rows back, the day of her testimony.

Abell’s defense attorney, Alex Morris, grilled Araujo in his cross-examination about her plea deal.

“You entered a plea of guilty to a reduced charge, not no contest,” he said. “You hope this (leads to) a reward or a reduction in your sentence for providing testimony.”

Araujo had agreed to what is known as an open plea, meaning there is no stipulation of a reduced sentence, only that the judge may impart a downward departure from the formula for calculating incarceration for the conviction.

“I have no expectations for anything, sir,” Araujo said.

Shackled both at her feet and hands, Araujo’s testimony was punctuated by frequent sobbing, prompting the bailiff Trina Lockley to provide her with a box of tissues. 

Araujo was on the stand for a few hours, recounting how she had met Abell in 2007, and later shared a house with him in Loxahatchee. She said they entered into a relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend and remained as such “off and on.

Criminal defense attorneys Alex Morris, who is representing Zachary Abell, and Scott Richardson, who has represented Christina Araujo, chat following court on Wednesday. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

“We had our relationship ups and downs, break up one minute, back together the next,” he said. “I would leave and go to my parents’ house and come back.”

The relationship was not monogamous, she testified, noting that the couple would have sex with other women. “They stayed around a couple weeks, a month or two and they would change,” Araujo said, describing it as a pattern that continued between 2008 and 2018.

She said the relationship could be “volatile” and “violent,” and that alcohol and drugs were part of it. 

In 2016 and 2017, the two opened a dealership for pre-owned cars, Abell Automotive, in which they would “get contracts of people looking for vehicles at auction.”

She said that in early 2018, the two were moving into a home in North Miami Beach together with Abell’s mom Kim Clark, along with Seiden, who had become a part of the relationship. Abell and Seiden had first become friends in high school at Allison Academy in North Miami Beach.

“She was a girlfriend; she was a little bit more than the other girls, Other girls came and went but she didn’t,” Araujo said. “She was more involved, she lived with us.”

“When the relationship started she would stay at our apartment a lot, and toward the end, we all decided to move into the home in North Miami beach, at the end of 2017,” Araujo said. 

She said there were sexual relations between all three of them, as well as sexual activity between the two women. In addition, she said there was violence and fighting between all three worsened by drugs and alcohol.

Araujo testified to an incident on a Saturday night in early April in which Seiden had become upset because Abell had thrown her cellphone in the swimming pool. “She was on a dating website and he found out about it,” she testified. “He picked her up and body slammed her on the top floor. Zach then came up to me and… and told me to mind my own business.”

Araujo said she left hurriedly to go to a cousin’s baby shower in Palm Beach. “I didn’t want to go back because of the fighting,” she said. “(Aileen) told me everything was OK and to come back to the home, and (she) and Zachary were there.” 

Araujo said she changed into her bathing suit and “Zach went to kiss me in the pool and I moved away from him. He started an argument and I got out of  the pool, ignoring him. He came up to me and put me in a headlock and went and got a gun out of the room and he pointed it in my direction. His mom came out screaming that she was going to call the cops.

“He left in a hurry, he took the rest of the money and him and her (Seiden) left in one of the vehicles that belong to Abell Auto,” Araujo said. “They did not come home. I was upset, I was worried, I knew alcohol was involved.

“Zach doesn’t have a license, and the car hadn’t even been transferred into the company. That’s a lot of responsibility on me as the owner of the company. I was upset and concerned.”

Christina Araujo, who has accepted a plea deal for second degree murder in the death of Aileen Seiden, breaks down during her testimony in the murder trial of Zachary Abell. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

Araujo said both she and Abell’s mother tried unsuccessfully to reach Abell, going to a bar where Seiden and Abell were said to have been drinking on that next day Sunday. They later learned the two had driven to the middle of Florida, to the Orlando and Gainesville area. 

“I made up a story that I had put out a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) on the car,” she said, knowing that might be the only way he would call back, which he did.

“I told him I didn’t do it,” Araujo said.

Abell told her that he and Seiden were headed to Texas, to the home of a mutual friend.

“It confused me because we had so much on our plate with opening a business and moving. We still had boxes,” she said.

Araujo said Abell invited her to fly out to Dallass, which she did, and he and Seiden picked her up at the airport.

“He went to give me a kiss and I didn’t acknowledge it,” she said. “I hugged (Seiden) and told her ‘I’m not mad at you. I’m glad you guys are safe and I was worried about you guys. That was the end of the conversation.”

Araujo described a fun-filled stay in Texas, going sightseeing and bar hopping.

“She (Seiden) and I were all over each other at a bar,” she said. “Everybody knew we were in a relationship; it was very obvious.”

The week led to what began as a leisurely ride back to Miami. “We were on a road trip, that’s how we looked at it,” Araujo said. “We didn’t have to be at the office 24-7. We had our own hours. We would sell some cars and take a break.”

The three of them drove to New Orleans, where she said Abell had assaulted her with kicks when she once balked at going out on the town. 

In Pensacola they stayed at a hotel on the beach and once again there was a physical fight.

As they drove along U.S. 98, they had first planned to stop in Panama City, but “we missed the exit as Aileen was driving the vehicle. Zach fell asleep in the back seat and her and I were up front.”

The three of them continued east along the coast until they spotted the Red Pirate. “Out of nowhere all of a sudden it showed up. We were hungry so we stopped, Araujo said. 

The three ordered food and played miniature golf, during which “Aileen is going back and forth to the vehicle, she seemed upset. She’s using his cell phone to contact friends. We end up closing down the restaurant. One of the cooks that was there was nice enough to sit with us, and I told him we can’t drive back to Miami. That’s when he told us about the Sportsman’s Lodge.”

Araujo said that when they arrived, the sign said no vacancies but they drove in. “We had to go to the bathroom really bad. We used the restroom outside and this man comes out of nowhere and startles us and asks what we’re doing.”

That man, the former owner Bob Allen, who has since passed away during the last six years, told them not to worry, Araujo testified. “He had a key in his pocket, he asked for ID and credit card, and he gave us the room key and we put our luggage in,” she said. 

“We started walking around the area, looking at the grounds and we came back and tried to have sex and it didn’t work,” she said. “(Aileen) and I ended up making out, and we went into the bathroom, and he found us and was upset.

“The next day we get up and it’s daylight and we start walking around,” Araujo said. “We noticed the peacocks and animals, we come from the city area, so we decided to make it  a BBQ day and do what they do outdoor wise, to make it an extra day.”

Araujo met with Edda Allen, the current owner, and paid for their two nights. Later that morning, as a thank-you gift, they brought Allen back a glass figurine shaped like a bluebird when they went to the dollar store to buy BBQ supplies as well as a fishing pole, a wooden paddle game, and water guns and balloons. 

Stocked with these as well as food and alcohol, the three returned to Room #15, and had a fun afternoon barbecuing and drinking, with Araujo and Seiden enjoying water fights with balloons and squirt guns.

“I could tell there was something Zach and Aileen were talking about,” Araujo said. “I would ask and Zachary told me it was nothing. I never pressed it; I just let it go.”

She said she went fishing, but kept getting her hook stuck on the rocks, which Abell helped her with. At one point, Aruajo testified, Seiden came out with a bra and leggings on. 

“Aileen is intoxicated, she’s not able to keep herself up,” she said, “He takes the fishing pool away from me.  I’m telling him to deal with it, and we get into an argument and he says to bring her inside.”

“Aileen is sitting up Indian style. I tell them we’ll take a nap and she argues that she doesn’t want to go to sleep,” Araujo said. 

What sparked the fight, she said, was that Seiden turned to her and said ‘Guess what?’, which prompted Abell to leap to his feet and hit Seiden.

What ensued, according to Araujo, was a brutal beating of Seiden by Abell, She said she had hit Seiden as well, after urging her to tell what she was going to say.

Aruajo said the fight in the room escalated to the point where she ran out to call Abell’s mom, but was unable to reach her. When she returned to the room, the couple were now fighting in the bathroom with Abell raining blows down on her as she sat naked in the bathtub, according to Aruajo’s testimony.

Later, after Seiden was able to walk out of the bathroom of her own accord, the fight began again, with Abell using a walking stick.

“He had hit her with the stick and the stick broke, and he inserted a potion of the stick in (her feminine parts),” Araujo said. “I got up and took the stick away from him, and threw it outside.”

She said she handed Seiden the wooden paddle they had bought at the dollar store, “I give him something else to hit her with instead of the stick,” Araujo testified. “I gave him something that was going to be less painful for her. I made the decision (because) the stick was so big.”

Araujo said she eventually fell on top of Seiden. “I finally get the courage to put myself between it,” she testified. “He doesn’t know I’m there and he punches me in the back. I turn my body and kick him as hard as I can away from this. He comes over and he calls us both bitches and whores and unzips his pants and pees on us.”

She said Seiden was alive when the three of them all fell asleep but that when she awoke before daybreak, she could see that her friend was in very serious condition.

When it became clearer that she appeared to be dead, she awoke Abell, and he began to panic, urging them to flee.

Araujo said she had already cleaned up some of Seiden’s vomit, using vinegar that they had that Abell would use to treat his ulcer.  The two began a hurried departure, according to Araujo.

“He’s frustrated with me because it’s starting to become light outside,” she said. “He has the door open to the room and goes and takes the lightbulb out of the patio area so it would be dark.

“He went and picked up Aileen and he yelled at me to help him,” she said. “He started yelling; he was struggling. I went and opened the car door for him. He put her in the back seat of the vehicle. When he put her in the car he had her sitting up like a person with the seatbelt on her. He stayed in the passenger seat of the vehicle.”

Araujo said she tried in vain to convince Abell not to flee. “I am trying to plead with him to not do this, not to run please. He says we’re going, go.”

Araujo said he instructed her to pay using cash when they stopped to buy gas, which she did.

“I got back in the car and I just started driving,” she testified. “I am trying to have a conversation with him. He’s crying, he’s upset, he’s asking “Why did you do this Aileen? Why did you do this?”

Araujo said she tried again to convince him not to flee. “He said ‘I’m part of the situation now, I’m an accomplice now,’” she said.

She said that Abell directed her to turn into the cul-de-sac area and that he alone dragged her to the ditch.

“He got back in the car and I’m crying,” she said. “Don’t do this Zach.”

Araujo testified that as they headed south, he spoke of finding a nearby cruise ship, get on using his passport as identification, and then when they debark on a foreign shore, he would not get back on the ship and return to America.

“After a good portion of the day he tells me he can’t find any boats leaving, the only boats leaving are out of Miami,” Araujo testified. “He’s wanting me to pull out a huge amount of money out of my account, so he could survive wherever he’s going. At the last minute he tells me to go to Broward County where his friend Mike (Picavet) lives.

“I kept on asking ‘Why are we going to Mike’s?’” she said, “(He said) because Mike owed him a favor and he’d be able to get out of the country on Mike’s boat.”

Araujo’s version of events was in keeping with what Picavet had testified to a day earlier, that they had come to his Davie home, and told vague stories about what had happened.

“Zach was hugging Mike and crying and Mike was asking what happened,” Araujo said. “There was never a conversation about what happened.”

Picavet, who would later call Aruajo’s father, a high ranking officer with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, which would lead to the couple’s arrest, testified that he played “devil’s advocate” throughout so as not to alarm Abell or Araujo.

But Araujo said she did hear one disconcerting thing as she lay down on the couch to fall asleep after driving all day.

“They’re talking at the kitchen bar that it was funny,” she said. “That they were going to ‘chum’ her body behind the boat all the way to the Bahamas.”



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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

5 Comments

  1. Did anybody else catch the fact that she said he said that he is now an accessory? And she openly slipped it out. Can’t be the murderer if you are claiming to be an accessory…
    I have to say, whatever the jurors come up with, we don’t blame you if it goes stupid as the States Attorney and the Judge kept myself and another witness from speaking relevant information that you needed to hear! I wished you asked more questions!!!! I’m feeling liem this witness was tampered with…that feeling sucks….
    Fact: John was witness to Zach being threatened by Tony.
    Fact: I felt threatened as he was present during my initial statement and he sent me down to an area that I don’t like going without a gun to repeat what I reported.
    This BS goes so deep that Zach would not testify because he has been threatened by guards in one of the jails he was housed in before trial. He feels that while he is in jail that he is in Tony’s realm and could be attacked again by gay guards that grab his junk and threaten to cut it off!
    But hey! Apalach and Franklin County are nice places right??

  2. I forgot!!!
    Christina Araujo has drugged me twice with Molly and 2 former girlfriends of mine.
    Why didn’t Ah scream?? Hmmm…
    I have the names of the 2 girls and a Coast Guard report to back that up!!

  3. Can anybody confirm that instead of being told that Zach’s mom died while we were up there of a couple different natural causes, that the jury was told that a witness for the defense just didn’t show up? His mom worked 7 days a week and put her health on the back burner so Zach could have money to communicate with loved ones and stay sane…and it got the better of her when she was, unnaturally for her, laying down waiting to be called as a witness, instead of working her butt off!
    If y’all only knew what we went through to help you see the truth! Even the news outlets only showed you whatever bad points they could find without any explanation as to what caused what! You’re all in the dark! Wait til it happens to one of your family members!!!

    Bet y’all didn’t see the Bible I swore on when I took my oath! That’s the way it is supposed to be done so God can watch and judge!!!

    1. No the jury was not told that a defense witness show up. The judge said something to the effect of Kim Clark would not be testifying due to unforeseeable circumstances. My spouse and I were there for every minute of the trial

    2. The judge told the jury that one of the witnesses- Kim Clark -would not be able to testify due to unforeseeable circumstances. I watched the entire trial

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