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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Stiletto Heel Murder Case

     Dr. Alf Stefan Anderson, a native of Sweden, joined the staff of the University of Houston in December 2009 as a full-time research professor specializing in women's reproductive health. In 2013, he resided on the 18th floor of a luxury high-rise condo in the city's museum district. The 59-year-old professor had an on-again, off-again relationship with Ana Trujillo (pronounced troo-HEE-yoh), a 44-year-old Mexican native.

     Dr. Anderson and Trujillo got into an argument on the night of June 8, 2013 while having drinks at a nightclub in Houston. In the taxi on the way back to his condo she was still angry and yelling at him. The fight had started when another man at the bar offered to buy her a drink.

     At four o'clock that morning Trujillo called 911 from Dr. Anderson's high-rise dwelling. Responding police officers and paramedic personnel were met at the door by Trujillo whose clothing and hands were covered in blood. The professor was lying on his back in the hallway with twenty to twenty-five puncture wounds in his face, arms and neck. He was unresponsive.

     Next to Dr. Anderson's punctured head lay a bloody blue suede woman's shoe with six-inch stiletto heels. This was the weapon that had caused the wounds and presumably killed the professor.

     Trujillo told the officers she had stabbed her boyfriend with the size-nine pump after he'd grabbed her and wrestled her to the ground. Unable to breathe, she had attacked him with the shoe in self defense.

     Police officers took Trujillo into custody at the scene. Later that day, a Harris County prosecutor charged her with capital murder. Following a short period behind bars, the murder suspect posted her $100,000 bail and was released.

     The Trujillo trial opened in late March 2014. In his opening remarks the prosecutor told the jury that the defendant, in a fit of rage, had attacked the victim causing him to fall backward and injure himself. As he lay helpless on the condo floor, she sat on him and from that position gave it to him with the stiletto shoe. At one point she tried to stop him from breathing by applying pressure to his neck.

     The prosecutor portrayed the professor as a mild-mannered nice guy and the defendant as a hothead.

     The defense attorney argued that his client had acted in self defense against an alcohol-fueled assault. Dr. Lee Ann Grossberg, a private forensic pathologist, took the stand for the defense. The witness had reviewed death scene photographs, the autopsy report, police documents, and medical records pertaining to the case. According to the expert witness, "I did not see any one injury that would have been fatal to Dr. Anderson. Natural causes may have contributed to his death."

     The defense pathologist testified that if the responding officers and medical crew had performed CPR on Dr. Anderson, or at least used an electronic monitor to measure his heart activity, they may have saved his life.

     Without a confession, surveillance footage of the altercation, or an eyewitness account, the stiletto murder represented the classic circumstantial case. The jurors, based on the interpretation of the death scene--particularly the number and nature of the puncture wounds, the unusual murder weapon as well as other circumstances of the case--would have to infer the defendant's guilt. In other words, if murder in this case seemed more reasonable that self-defense, Trujillo would go to prison.

     On April 8, 2014, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. Ana Trujillo showed little emotion as the verdict was read. She faced up to life behind bars.

     The punishment phase of the Trujillo trial began the day following the guilty verdict. A police officer testified that Trujillo had been arrested twice for drunken driving. A former security guard took the stand and described how Trujillo had once attacked him. Another witness told jurors that Trujillo had broken into his apartment.

     Ana Trujillo took the stand at her sentencing hearing and said, "I never meant to hurt him. It was never my intent. I loved him. I wanted to get away." Following her testimony, the defense attorney asked the judge to send her to prison for two years.

     On April 11, 2014, the trial judge sentenced the 45-year-old Trujillo to life in prison. 

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