Julian D. Collazo was found guilty of murdering Christine Scaccia-Lubeck in 2017, a jury decided after about 90 minutes of deliberation Wednesday.
No reaction by Collazo could be detected as Judge Barbara McCrory read the verdict, but Scaccia-Lubeck’s mother, Diane Somers, sobbed.
The family has waited 2½ years to hear a guilty verdict, including waiting through a previous trial in which the jury could not reach a verdict.
Co-prosecutor Jerry Urbik said afterward that the wait took an emotional toll on the family.
Collazo, 24, must be sentenced to life in the prison system, but that could include supervised release. Urbik said the state will ask that Collazo not be given extended supervision because of the brutal nature of the crime.
Urbik said a judge has wide discretion in deciding the question of supervised release. The law requires Collazo to serve at least 20 years behind bars.
McCrory said a presentence investigation, which she ordered, will help her decide.
The investigation will give a detailed account of the crime and Collazo’s background.
Scaccia-Lubeck was stabbed 33 times in her home on Janesville’s near-west side Dec. 8, 2017.
The prosecution presented evidence of the victim’s blood on Collazo’s shoes and clothing and his admission of guilt to a fellow jail inmate.
Collazo fled Janesville in Scaccia-Lubeck’s SUV the night of the murder with Nicole R. Kazar, a woman he apparently met a few days before.
Collazo and Kazar were homeless and helped each other. On the night of the murder, they had been smoking crack cocaine and drinking, Kazar testified Tuesday.
The defense presented a different story about what happened, saying Kazar, not Collazo, committed the stabbing in a jealous rage.
Kazar testified she didn’t know Scaccia-Lubeck and had never been to her house.
Urbik said no evidence implicated Kazar, and prosecutors have no intention of pursuing her for any role in the murder.
Urbik said Kazar served the maximum sentence for driving Scaccia-Lubeck’s SUV after the murder, which was 18 months behind bars and two years of extended supervision.
Collazo did not testify as he had in the first trial.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Jensen said Kazar had the clearer motive, and he noted that she knew about such things, as she had told the court about being beaten and forced into prostitution by her former husband, who used her to lure men into compromising situations so they could be robbed.
None of that squares with the facts, District Attorney David O’Leary said in his closing argument.
Facebook messages between Collazo and Kazar showed they were not together at the time of the murder, O’Leary said.
At 6:56 p.m. Dec. 8, Collazo messaged Kazar: “I did this all for you, not me.”
Kazar asked what he did. He replied: “I got her for everything.” His next message just said, “Car.”
O’Leary said it was apparent what the homeless man with no money was talking about.
Somers found her daughter dead the next day. Police testified there was blood in the bathroom, in a hallway and in the bedroom where Scaccia-Lubeck’s body was found.
Collazo had told another inmate that he stabbed her in the bathroom, and she went to get a gun that was on a counter in the bedroom, O’Leary said.
Next to the body was a bloody footprint that police matched to Collazo’s Jordan-brand sneakers. Blood on the sneakers and Collazo’s pants also matched Scaccia-Lubeck.
No blood was found on Kazar’s clothing. Jensen suggested Kazar washed herself and her clothing after the stabbing, although there was no direct evidence that she did so.
The only evidence of a motive was what Collazo told the jail inmate, that he did it to prove to Kazar that he could protect her. The law does not require prosecutors to prove motive.
Jensen suggested Collazo had plenty of reason to keep Scaccia-Lubeck alive. Collazo told the inmate that he was having sex with Scaccia-Lubeck, that she was paying him and a video showed her buying them beer just before the murder.
The jail inmate knew nothing of the crime, but details he provided matched what happened in Scaccia-Lubeck’s house—details only the killer would know, O’Leary said.
Jensen said Kazar’s motive, jealousy, was stronger, and her special knowledge made her a good suspect: “She knows how to use prostitution to wheedle her way into somebody’s home, into a compromising situation.”
Jensen dismissed Kazar’s testimony that Collazo told her he did it, saying she was trained by her life of prostitution to deceive.
But the prosecution’s evidence convinced the jury of nine men and three women.
O’Leary described Scaccia-Lubeck’s wounds, including 23 to the torso and six defensive wounds on her arm. He described a pathologist’s description of “three kill shots to the heart with that knife that ended Christine’s life.”
“You saw the wounds to her arms. You saw the tears to her clothing. … Christine was fighting back (against) whoever was killing her,” O’Leary told the jury.
O’Leary described Collazo’s DNA being found under Scaccia-Lubeck’s fingernails: “Christine is telling you who killed her. She’s defending her life, and the DNA on her arms and her hands are Collazo’s.”