Nicole Abusharif, who is out on bond, took a smoking break on day one of her murder trial.
The 28-year-old pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and concealment of a homicide. She is accused of killing her long-time domestic partner, 32-year-old Rebecca Klein in 2007. The two lived together in Villa Park.
In opening statements on Wednesday, assistant state's attorney Joe Ruggiero described how Abusharif used a plastic bag to suffocate Klein, then dumped her body in the trunk of the couple's 1966 Ford Mustang, parked in the garage of the home. Ruggiero said evidence - including finger prints on garbage bags and duct tape used to bind Klein and DNA on bandanas used to gag and blindfold her - linked Abusharif to the crime.
For the first time, prosecutors suggested a motive, saying Abusharif had another lover and spentthe night of the murder with her. Also, they said, Abusharif stood to gain up to $400,000 in insurance and savings if Klein was gone.
"Was it money? The love for another woman? Probably both," Ruggiero told the jury. "If you get rid of Becky, you can have the money and the girl you love can move in."
The prosecutor promised jurors, "you will meet the other woman." Her name is Rose.
The defense argued that the couple had an open relationship and that Klein knew her.
Defense attorney Bob Parchem said, "Abusharif lied and covered up for Rose because she didn't believe people would understand the nature of their relationship." That was a fear, he said, that was confirmed when the first officer to arrive after Klein was reported missing asked, "What is this? The 'Jerry Springer Show'?"
Rebecca Klein's sister, Melanie Baldridge, was first to take the witness stand. She broke down while describing how she found her sister's cell phone in the basement while police were still looking to her. And Abusharif had told her she didn't have a key to the trunk of the Mustang where the body was eventually found.
The trial is expected to continue into next week. If convicted, Abusharif could be sentenced to life in prison.