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Trial begins of ex-boyfriend accused of strangling West Tampa woman

TAMPA — Prosecutor Jalal Harb gave jurors three reasons Monday why they should find Jose Torres-Rodriguez guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend.

After he was arrested for violating a domestic violence injunction, he told people that Iris Hernandez-Morales would "pay for it" if she testified against him in court, Harb said.

Hours before Torres-Rodriguez's scheduled trial June 17, neighbors saw him hurrying from his ex's West Tampa home.

And after Hernandez-Morales, 35, didn't show for the trial, police found her strangled body inside her home. They also found two drops of blood that matched her ex-boyfriend's DNA, Harb said during his opening statement.

Testimony is expected to begin today.

The attorney representing Torres-Rodriguez, 56, said his client didn't kill Hernandez-Morales.

He didn't burglarize her home either, as prosecutors contend, Assistant Public Defender Kenneth Littman told jurors.

Littman said there were no signs of forced entry. Whoever killed the woman likely was invited in, he said.

The couple had a documented history of problems. Police were dispatched five times for domestic violence calls related to the pair in the year before Hernandez-Morales died.

The day she was killed, she was supposed to testify that her ex-boyfriend had violated a protective injunction by going into her back yard.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Trial begins of ex-boyfriend accused of strangling West Tampa woman 03/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 16, 2009 11:34pm]
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