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Woman denies killing lover in Villa Park murder
By Christy Gutowski Legal Affairs Writer | Daily Herald Staff

Nicole Abusharif

 

Rebecca "Becky" Klein

 

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Published: 5/2/2009 12:01 AM

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Nicole Abusharif admits she is a liar.

But she denied being a killer Friday while insisting to a DuPage County jury she had nothing to do with her lesbian partner's violent death.

Abusharif took the witness stand for about four hours as the arduous trial - which included eight days of testimony from about 30 witnesses and 150 pieces of physical evidence - drew near its end.

DuPage Circuit Judge John Kinsella told jurors to expect to begin deliberating Monday after listening to lawyers' closing arguments.

Abusharif is accused of suffocating 32-year-old Becky Klein March 15, 2007.

Police investigating Klein's disappearance discovered her body two days later in the trunk of the couple's 1966 Ford Mustang in the detached garage of their home on Harvard Avenue in Villa Park. A plastic garbage bag was taped around Klein's head. Her hands and feet were bound with duct tape.

Prosecutors Tim Diamond and Joseph Ruggiero argue Abusharif killed Klein to pursue a romantic relationship with another woman and also to collect about $400,000 in life and mortgage insurance. Forensic experts testified they found Abusharif's finger and palm prints on the duct tape and garbage bag, as well as her DNA on bandannas used to gag and blindfold Klein.

The night of the murder, the other woman stayed with Abusharif in the Villa Park house after the two partied and bowled together in the south suburbs. The woman, Rose Sodaro, testified earlier in the trial that Abusharif gave her a key to the Mustang that night as a present. Sodaro said Abusharif led her to believe Klein was just a roommate, not lover.

Abusharif testified Friday she loved Klein. She said they had an open relationship and that Klein didn't object to Sodaro as long as certain rules were followed.

The defendant admitted repeatedly lying to police, family and friends about the fact she spent that night with Sodaro but said she did so only to avoid having to expose intimate details about her open sex life.

"I was protecting Becky, even though she's dead," Abusharif testified. "I wanted to protect her name. It's nobody's business what we did behind bedroom doors."

Upon Ruggiero's cross examination, Abusharif admitted profiting in eight earlier insurance claims ranging from auto accidents to workers' compensation. She also admitted several other lies and inconsistencies. For example, to explain online chats with Sodaro in which Abusharif said she was a hero New York firefighter during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, or that she had cancer, she said it was just a fantasy game they played.

The defense team, Bob Parchem and Dennis Sopata, argued it would have been physically impossible for Abusharif to overpower Klein and load her body into a trunk. They said it isn't surprising that Abusharif's fingerprints were found all over the crime scene since the couple was in the midst of repacking holiday decorations. The defense noted it was Abusharif who called 911 to report Klein's disappearance.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Abusharif, 28, is free on a $1 million bond. The defendant is living with her father in Oak Lawn and said Friday she never returned to the Villa Park house after her arrest.

Klein, a college graduate who worked with disabled adults, grew up in a close-knit family in Streamwood. Her parents, Jeff and Marilyn Klein, and an older sister, Melanie, and many other relatives and friends have attended the lengthy trial.