WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Ibet Delatorre, fighting back tears, couldn't bear to view the poster-sized photographs of the cardboard barrel used to coldly dispose of her dead sister Doris Lopez's remains more than two years ago.
But Delatorre watched the defendant on trial, David Muringer, as he told a Palm Beach County jury last week he discarded the barrel inside a car parked in a downtown Delray Beach — but insisted someone else choked Lopez, 48, to death.
Now Delatorre says she sees lonely and frustrating days ahead, after the jurors issued a verdict that allowed Muringer, 42, to walk out of jail a free man late Monday. Muringer, formerly of Lake Worth, was found guilty of two misdemeanor crimes: culpable negligence and unlawful disposal of human remains.
"I'm very saddened the judicial system has failed my sister and my family," Delatorre, who lives near Atlantic City, N.J., said in an interview Tuesday. "He got away with it."
Jurors Monday told Circuit Judge Charles Burton they were split 4-2 on the prosecutors' request for a felony manslaughter conviction after a weeklong trial.
After further deliberations they agreed on the lesser charge signifying Muringer bore some responsibility for his former lover's death in October 2010. The convictions are each punishable by 60 days in jail, but Muringer served that time already since he was locked up after his January 2011 arrest.
"It was a horrific death she had to endure and all he got was 120 days," Delatorre said.
After the verdict, Burton said he hoped Muringer — a previously convicted felon — makes the most of the "gift" handed out by the jury of four women and two men. Jurors contacted by the Sun Sentinel after the verdict declined to comment on the record about the case.
Records show Muringer has had a long criminal career in Florida, with about 80 arrests and more than a dozen felony convictions since 1995.
But during closing arguments Friday, defense attorney Erich Taylor insisted his client was guilty this time only of abandoning Lopez's car with her partially decomposed body inside the drum.
During questioning by Delray Beach detectives, Muringer initially denied responsibililty. He eventually confessed to choking Lopez during a night of rough sex, causing her to die.
On the witness stand, Muringer told the jury he lied to police and for the first time said a friend, Thomas Byrd, placed Lopez in a fatal chokehold. Muringer said he was too fearful of Bryd to tell police the truth.
Assistant State Attorney Barbara Burns on Tuesday said Byrd was never considered for an arrest. She said she could not "second guess" the jury's decision.
Taylor declined to discuss the verdict, but during the trial he said there was plenty of reasonable doubt.
He pointed to County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Bell's conclusion that Lopez's death was a homicide, but without a certain finding of how she died. Bell testified Lopez probably died from asphyxiation.
"That's a murder, that's not manslaughter," Taylor said about the prosecution's case. "It's not about rough sex. It's about murder."
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