Crime & Courts

Colucci Retrial: Flurry Of Defense Motions Filed

Attorneys for jeweler accused of killing his wife seek the exclusion of “prejudicial” evidence, testimony, terminology …

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Attorneys representing accused killer Michael Colucci unleashed a flurry of motions this week seeking to systemically erode the state of South Carolina’s case against their client – a Lowcountry jeweler who stands accused of murdering his wife nearly nine years ago.

The motions make it clear Colucci’s lawyers – veteran Charleston attorney Andy Savage and criminal defense lawyer Scott Bischoff – are going to school on the first trial of their client, hoping to exclude testimony and evidence that could prove damaging to their case.

Colucci, 54, of Summerville, S.C. was charged in May of 2016 with the murder of his wife, 38-year-old Sara Lynn Colucci. According to prosecutors, Colucci killed his wife in cold blood on the evening of May 20, 2015 following a domestic altercation – strangling her with either his bare hands or a necklace and subsequently staging the crime scene to make it look like a suicide.

According to the defendant, his wife took her own life by hanging herself with a garden hose.

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RELATED | COLUCCI FAMILY UNRAVELING

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“Oh my God. C’mon, Sara. Please baby,” Colucci can be heard pleading on the 9-1-1 call, telling dispatchers his wife had turned “purple.”

Emergency medical technicians discovered Sara Colucci’s blue, cold, lifeless body on a cement slab next to a six-foot chain-link fence – a black garden hose wrapped around her neck. She had grooved wounds on her neck – and scrapes on her knees and one of her feet.

“My wife, my wife,” Colucci told first responders upon their arrival on the scene. “She’s gone.”

The cause of Sara Colucci’s death was determined to be asphyxiation by neck compression. The manner of her death has never been established, however. At the time of her death, cocaine and Xanax were detected in her system – and her blood alcohol content was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit. A single strand of her blonde hair was found at the top of the post where the garden hose was looped.

What happened?

Versions of events put forward by Michael Colucci strained credulity. He told investigators he and his wife were driving home when she said she needed to use the bathroom. He stopped at their gold-buying business – The Gold Standard – where he claimed to have waited in the car while she squeezed through a gap in the fence to urinate on the side of the building. He said he listened to two songs and smoked a cigarette – allegedly able to see Sara Lynn standing near the fence the entire time – before he got out of the Toyota Prius and asked if she needed him to unlock the door.

According to police, Michael Colucci’s narrative about the evening in question kept evolving. One particularly inventive explanation? That his wife had somehow tripped while shimmying between the fence post and the building and had “fallen into the hose.” He also changed his account about how long he had remained in the Prius before purportedly discovering his wife’s body.

(Click to View)

(FITSTube)

Investigators noted wounds on both Sara and Michael consistent with a struggle. Sara Lynn had a bruised eye and was missing the tip of her left pinky nail from her manicured hands (which was later found on the floor of the car along with a broken pair of sunglasses). She also had abrasions on both her knees and on the top of one foot.

Colucci had busted and swollen lip – which he claimed to have received when giving his wife CPR (even though there were no indications he had actually attempted CPR). Colucci also had bruises and scratches on his upper right and left arms as well abrasions on the knuckle of one hand. The skin was peeled off on the inside of one of his arms near his wrist.

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) conducted the initial investigation into Sara Colucci’s death – but did not file charges against Michael Colucci. A year later, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Department (SLED) – led by special agent David Owen – was asked to investigate the case at the request of sheriff Duane Lewis, who had reviewed the evidence at the request of Sara’s family.

SLED charged Colucci with murder on May 4, 2016.

Colucci’s first murder trial began in late November 2018. Ten days later – on December 7, 2018 – S.C. circuit court judge Deadra Jefferson declared a mistrial after jurors were deadlocked following two days of deliberations. Jurors indicated they were unlikely to find Colucci guilty of murder, but were arguing back and forth as to whether he committed voluntary manslaughter (i.e. a “crime of passion”) or was altogether “not guilty.”

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Colucci’s retrial was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is docketed to begin on Monday, May 13, 2024 at the Berkeley County courthouse in Moncks Corner, S.C., with judge Jefferson once again presiding.

The nine motions (.pdf) – filed on Monday of this week (April 29, 2024) – seek to prohibit prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson from discussing Colucci’s drug and alcohol use, his treatment of his children, the couple’s financial situation and his conduct in relation to “Sara Colucci’s bathroom habits at bars.”

The motions also seek to prohibit prosecutors Joel Kozak and Kinli Abee from “referencing, eliciting testimony or offering evidence” related to Sara Colucci’s gold necklace and how it was damaged during the first trial. Those who watched those proceedings will recall Savage broke the necklace during his cross-examination of one of the state’s expert witnesses.

According to the defense, “the probative value of referencing, arguing for or against, eliciting testimony or offering evidence of how Sara Colucci’s necklace became damaged is substantially outweighed by the prejudicial effect it would have on a jury.”

Colucci’s lawyers also want to keep the state from discussing a “red spot” found on Sara Colucci’s phone that “presumptively tested positive for human blood.”

“If the state is not prohibited from alluding to this red spot as being human blood, without further explanation and testing, it will prejudice the jury and allow them to erroneously infer that the red spot on Sara Colucci’s phone is blood from Michael Colucci and/ or Sara Colucci,” they noted.

Yet another motion filed by Colucci’s lawyers hopes to limit Kozak and Abee’s vocabulary during the trial, seeking an order barring them from “using prejudicial terms.” Among these terms? “Victim,” “defendant,” “homicide” and “crime scene.”

Oh, and “struggle.”

“The use of any term which implies a manner of death inconsistent with the previously published and unchanged finding of ‘undetermined’ would be unfairly prejudicial to Michael Colucci,” they noted.

Stay tuned to FITSNews for comprehensive coverage of the latest developments in this ongoing saga and full coverage of the upcoming trial …

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THE MOTIONS …

(S.C. Ninth Judicial Circuit)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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