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Luongo v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 28, 2019

JACQUELINE LUONGO, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Dennis D. Bailey, Judge; L.T. Case No. 14012153CF10A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Jeffrey L. Anderson, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Lindsay A. Warner, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Forst, J.

         Appellant Jacqueline Luongo was charged with first-degree murder for the death of Patricia Viveiros. While in jail awaiting trial, Appellant was also charged with tampering with a witness and solicitation to murder that witness. These charges were joined for trial and Appellant was found guilty as charged on all three counts. Appellant now raises seven issues on appeal. We write only to address Appellant's argument that the trial court erred in joining the charges and in denying Appellant's motion to sever the murder charge from the tampering and solicitation charges. On that argument and all others raised, we affirm.

         Background

         While conducting a welfare check on Viveiros at her apartment, the police discovered her body in a zipped garment bag inside the bedroom closet. Viveiros had been handcuffed. There was white duct tape covering her entire face and a plastic bag over her head. The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was asphyxiation caused by the tape covering the victim's mouth and nose. There were no signs of forced entry into the apartment or of a struggle inside the apartment.

         A. The testimony of Maria Calderon

         According to the trial testimony of Appellant's former live-in girlfriend, Maria Calderon, nine days before police found Viveiros's body, Calderon and Appellant met at a bar. During their conversation, Appellant told Calderon that she was living with Viveiros, but that Viveiros was recently arrested and in jail. Appellant then asked Calderon if she was interested in helping her kill Viveiros because Viveiros had money. Calderon told Appellant that she was not interested. Appellant then mentioned to Calderon that Calderon could disguise herself as Viveiros so that they could forge Viveiros's checks.

         Several days later, Appellant admitted to Calderon that Viveiros was not in jail but was actually dead and that her body was in Viveiros's closet. When Calderon asked how Viveiros died, Appellant stated that she came home and found a "big Spanish guy" choking Viveiros. Appellant stated that this man hit her, forced her to duct tape Viveiros, and took pictures of her while doing so. Appellant stated that she believed this man was likely a hitman sent to kill Viveiros to prevent her from testifying in an unrelated case. Following this conversation, while Appellant was out getting ice, Calderon left because she wanted "nothing to do with that."

         Two days later, Appellant and Calderon met again at a hotel. Appellant told Calderon that she had been forging Viveiros's checks and that she planned to leave the country. Calderon testified that she began to get suspicious that Appellant was trying to frame her for the murder when she realized that she had likely left her fingerprints in Viveiros's apartment during two overnight stays. Later that night, when Appellant was asleep, Calderon left the room and flagged down a police officer to tell him about Appellant's confession to her. Appellant was taken into custody and once the body was found, charged with first-degree murder.

         B. The testimony of Nicole Okrezik and Detective Munson

         While in jail, Appellant met Nicole Okrezik. At trial, Okrezik testified that Appellant admitted to her that she murdered Viveiros. Appellant told Okrezik that Viveiros was upset because Appellant had gone out with Calderon and did not return until the following morning. While arguing, Appellant attempted to quiet Viveiros by putting tape over her mouth. When Viveiros tried to pull the tape off, Appellant handcuffed her, placed duct tape around her entire face, and covered her head with a ...


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