Trial for man accused of killing wife’s best friend begins

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The trial for a man accused of killing his estranged wife’s best friend is beginning.

Tony Villegas, 52, is accused of murdering attorney Melissa Britt Lewis at her Plantation home in 2008. Police said Villegas blamed Lewis for the break up of his marriage.

Lewis was found dead in a Plantation canal, with her SUV abandoned nearby. Signs of a struggle were found in her garage and, prosecutors said, DNA evidence and electronic pings from Villegas’ cellphone will link Villegas to the murder scene.

Lewis was convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein’s partner. Villegas’ wife also worked with Rothstein as his chief operating officer.

Prosecutors said Lewis’ murder had nothing to do with Rothstein’s scheme and plan to block any mention of it in court. “What you’re gonna hear is Melissa Lewis died from manual strangulation,” said Prosecutor Shari Tate during her opening remarks. “It’s not an instantaneous death, ladies and gentlemen. It is a close-up type of murder. It is a hands-on, personal murder. It takes time, it takes pressure, it takes thought, it takes intent … it takes premeditation, and why? Because she was a friend.”

According to Villegas’ attorney, Rothstein is not on any witness list. However, his name has been inserted in court, so it is unclear if he will be testifying.

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