WARNING: This story contains details that could be disturbing to some readers.
Gerald Aquintey spoke softly as he recalled coming home in the middle of the night in the early morning hours of May 26, 2018 and discovering his wife of 15 years dead.
Rhoderie Estrada was a 41-year-old registered nurse who worked on the dialysis unit at St. Joesph’s Hospital and was the mother of their three daughters.
Estrada would lock and latch the front door on nights when Aquintey would work late in his Jamestown restaurant, and on that night he went to the grand opening of a friend’s restaurant in North York after work. The side door was also locked and the interior door, deadlocked.
The plan was that Aquintey would call his wife when he arrived home and she would wake up and let him in since Estrada was a “light sleeper.”
But on that night, Aquintey said he arrived at his Torrens Avenue home in East York after 2 a.m. and noticed the lights were all on, something that was not normal. The front door was locked and latched so he called his wife but there was no answer. After a second call went unanswered, he rang the front doorbell. Eventually going to the side of the house where Aquintey found the side door unlocked and an interior door kicked in. He also noticed footprints in the dust on the floor, the basement of the home was under renovation. There was dust everywhere.
When Aquintey got upstairs, following the footprints on the floor, he testified he went straight to the master bedroom.
“Next thing I saw my wife covered in a blanket, lots of blood. Immediately I went to the bedroom where my children were sleeping to check on them. They were OK. I ran to the other room, my youngest daughter, she was OK too. I ran back to check on my wife, she was badly beaten, her face swollen,” said Aquintey, choking back tears.
He explained he called 911, but was unable to perform CPR as instructed by the call-taker because his wife’s facial injuries were so severe.
The testimony was heard on day one of the trial of Yostin Murillo and David Beak, who were 22 and 23 years old at the time of their arrests. The pair were jointly charged with the sexual assault and first-degree murder of Estrada.
Crown prosecutor Beverley Richards said the two men were strangers to Estrada. She told the jury the accused committed the vicious beating and sexual assault during a break-and-enter.
Murillo and Beak, who have been in custody since days after the murder when they were arrested, both pleaded not guilty. The pair were set to go to trial in fall 2020, but due to COVID-19 the trial was delayed.
Their trial is the first one to be held in Toronto with a jury since the Superior Court of Justice suspended jury trials last year.
In her opening address, Richards thanked the jury for their dedication during a worldwide pandemic.
“A time that continues to be uncertain and unpredictable,” she said.
Richards told the jury a screen from a main-level window in the kitchen area of the house had been removed. The sliding portion of the window had been opened as well. Forensic officers also found a second discarded screen from a basement window on the walkway next to the house.
“Pry marks were clearly visible on the metal frame,” said Richards, who earlier told the jury that the first officer on scene noticed a large metal pry bar or chisel type took that lay resting on the footboard of the bed where Estrada was found and later pronounced dead.
Her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. A forensic pathologist is expected to testify that the pattern of injuries is consistent with a heavy elongated instrument.
The jury was expected to see video surveillance of Murillo and Beak taken from a grocery store and a nearby youth shelter on the evening on May 25, 2018, into the early morning hours of May 26, depicting Murillo and Beak together both before and after Estrada was found dead.
Richards said when Murillo was arrested on May 27, he had a blood-stained cellphone belonging to Estrada and a cellphone belonging to one of her daughters.
Clothes Murillo appeared to be wearing in the surveillance video were also recovered. The material was also blood-stained. Murillo’s fingerprint was also lifted from the frame of the main floor kitchen window.
Beak was arrested on June 8, 2018. Richards told the jury during the post mortem, various samples were taken from Estrada’s body including one from her external genitalia.
A forensic biologist was expected to testify a DNA profile she developed from the swab is a statistical certainly the DNA profile of Beak’s.
When he was arrested, Richards said Beak told homicide investigators he had been on Torrens Avenue the day before the murder. He also told officers that he tried to have sex with Estrada but could not.
The trial was scheduled to last for six weeks.