The prosecution’s closing arguments bring convicted killer Ana Trujillo to tears Friday, but jurors were unmoved by her claims of self-defense. The 45-year-old will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Prosecutor John Jordan climbed atop a courtroom table in front of a dozen wide-eyed jurors, straddled a mannequin torso and pantomimed hitting the dummy in the face with a high-heel stiletto.
It was the first time the jurors, who would eventually sentence Ana Trujillo to life in prison, could see for themselves how something so ordinary could be used in such a deadly way.
With TV cameras rolling on each of Jordan’s swings, it was also the kind of drama that will become part of the lore that surrounds Houston’s courthouse.
On Friday, the two-week trial that captured the city’s attention and made headlines across the country ended with Trujillo, 45, being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her boyfriend, Alf Stefan Andersson, last year.
“I never meant to kill him,” Trujillo said after hearing the verdict. “It was self-defense. I never meant to hurt him.”
Trujillo claimed throughout the trial that she was the victim in an abusive relationship and was defending herself from an attack with the only weapon she had: a cobalt blue platform pump with a 5-inch heel.
But the jury did not buy it.
Instead, they saw a woman with a violent history, a woman who often talked in circles during her testimony and who could not explain how she feared for her life the night she stabbed her boyfriend 25 times in the face and head.
That was just too many strikes for self-defense, said jury foreman Moin Khan.
“If you were to attack me, what would I do?” Khan said. “Maybe hit and then get out.”
Andersson, a 59-year-old University of Houston professor and biochemist, died in the attack June 9. The couple had returned to Andersson’s luxury high-rise apartment about 2 a.m. after drinking together all day.
During the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial, jurors saw Trujillo give police a winding four-hour account of her past relationships. On the night she killed Andersson, Trujillo said, they got in a fight and he wrestled her to the floor and made it hard for her to breathe.
After she had been convicted, Trujillo took the stand in her defense and spent six hours re-telling the same meandering story, still glossing over the fight. Her attorney snapped at her several times to stay on point.
“Short, sweet and simple,” defense lawyer Jack Carroll said. He signaled her with hand gestures when she wandered off topic.
Courthouse observers said Trujillo’s aimless testimony hurt her more than it helped.
Trujillo had faced a punishment ranging from five years to life. Because she got the maximum, she will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Violent past related
Prosecutors said it was an appropriate sentence for a woman whose violence has escalated over the past six years from slapping strangers to killing her boyfriend.
“She’s not mentally unstable. She’s crazy,” Jordan told jurors during the prosecution’s closing arguments. “Scary crazy. I don’t dare try to get into what’s going on in her mind.”
Jordan and prosecutor Sarah Mickelson called 20 witnesses during the trial’s punishment phase to testify about Trujillo’s behavior, including biting an ex-boyfriend, drunkenly attacking a security guard, and a bizarre incident in which her neighbors arrived home to find her using the bathroom in their apartment.
Although Trujillo’s violent behavior was what jurors heard about, what they kept seeing was the murder weapon, displayed on the table in front of the jury while most witnesses, including Trujillo, testified.
The left shoe was covered with blood and strands of Andersson’s hair. Its mate, which was used in demonstrations, was spotless.
Although she said Andersson bought her a pair of $1,500 Christian Louboutin stiletto heels, the shoe Trujillo used in the slaying was from Qupid and cost less than $100. Inside that long thin heel was something much more menacing that could only be seen on an X-ray shown to jurors. The heel and sole, both made of steel, looked like an ice hammer with a crooked handle.
Bloody photos of Andersson’s body at the crime scene showed the damage it could do.
The Houston police officer who was first to respond said he thought Andersson had been shot in the face.
After Trujillo was sentenced, her victim’s niece, Ylva Olofsson, took the stand to give a victim impact statement for the family, most of whom were from Sweden.
“I’m 110 percent sure that he was never violent with Ana Trujillo,” Olofsson said. She said she spoke with her uncle several times a week and that he was dating someone else, not trying to keep Trujillo from leaving. “He was not depressed, he was happy.”
After she praised her uncle as a generous and kind man, she spoke to Trujillo’s family.
“I’m sorry for what you’ve had to go through,” Olofsson said.
It was a gesture that seemed to pave the way for the two families, who sat next to each other in court for two weeks but never spoke, to finally meet.
After Trujillo had been taken out of the courtroom, her mother, step-father and aunt tearfully approached the victim’s family and started talking to the group.
“I’m just sorry for the family of Stefan Andersson,” Trujillo’s mother said between sobs. “I’m truly sorry.”
The two families, in tears in the courtroom, all hugged.