Trial over professor's killing under way

Published On: Apr 23 2012 06:24:35 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2012 11:32:48 AM EDT

The trial has begun in the death of a Nova Southeastern University professor, who prosecutors say was stabbed to death in a landlord-tenant dispute.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

The trial of a man accused of torturing and murdering a Nova Southeastern professor began on Monday.

Randy Tundidor Sr. is charged with first-degree murder in the 2010 killing of Joseph Morrissey.

In their opening statement, prosecutors described the crime as a horror story. They laid out in graphic detail the hour of terror that ended with the stabbing death.

"Quite frankly, I don't how else to discuss what were about to discuss," prosecutor Tom Coleman told jurors.

They mentioned the evidence against Tundidor Sr.: a big hunting knife, a gas container, zip ties, and autopsy photos.

Professor Morrissey was stabbed to death in April of 2010 by a robber who held his family hostage then set their house on fire.

"As we made our way to the back patio, we observed a white male with his hands and legs bound together and he was covered in blood," said Officer Daniel Hanes, a neighbor who was first on the scene.

Prosecutors said Morrisey was about to evict Tundidor Sr. and his family from their rental home. 

The state's key witness will be Tundidor's own son, Randy Tundidor Jr., who is also charged in the case. Prosecutors said he broke into the Morrissey's home that night, tied up Morrissey and his wife, and then drove force them to an ATM to withdraw cash. The couple's 5-year-old son slept through the ordeal.

But prosecutors said it was Tundidor Sr. who was waiting when they returned, stabbed the professor nine times, and set the home on fire.

Linda Morrissey was able to free herself from the zip ties that bound her hands and get out of the burning house with her son.

Linda Morrissey will take the stand and describe the ordeal to jurors and jurors will also hear audio recordings of Tundidor Sr. allegedly talking about the crime to his youngest son, who wore a wire to prove to police that his brother was not the killer

"Randy Jr. is a crack addict. A hard core, desperate, crack addict living on the street", said defense attorney Chris Pole, who told jurors that Tundidor Sr.'s sons have conspired to frame their father.  

Pole said Tundidor Jr. acted alone and pointed out that his finger prints were found on the gas can and Morrissey's blood was found on his shirt.

Pole said there's no physical evidence tying Tundidor Sr. to  the scene. Pole claims Tundidor Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and his hoping his testimony will earn him a lighter sentence.

Court records show police found jewelry and computer equipment stolen from Morrissey's home and the same kind of straps used to bind the couple, at the Tundidor's window tinting business.

Tundidor Sr. is facing the death penalty if he's convicted.  The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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