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Widow secretive, two testify

Published Oct. 8, 2005

How would you act if your spouse disappeared?

Would you call the police immediately?

Would you carry on with an extramarital affair you had been having?

Would you invite your lover into your home the day after your spouse vanished?

Prosecutors in the Ronnie Hernandez murder trial hammered away at those questions Wednesday as they tried to build their case against the dead man's widow, Joyce Hernandez, who is accused of killing him and stowing his body in his car trunk in 1992.

The trial continues at 8:30 a.m. today.

Prosecutors suggested Mrs. Hernandez's willingness to invite a lover into her Spring Hill house showed she knew her husband would never return.

Until Hernandez disappeared, two witnesses testified Wednesday, Mrs. Hernandez made a practice of setting up secret meetings away from home with Dennis Monahan, a co-worker from a Pasco County restaurant.

Then, the day after Hernandez disappeared, she had sex with Monahan on her living room couch, Monahan testified.

"I asked her where her husband was. She said she didn't know," he said.

Mrs. Hernandez appeared convinced her husband had come to harm, but she said she didn't know what kind, Monahan said.

The next day, she invited Monahan to return to her Hague Court home in Spring Hill for another lovemaking session, Monahan said.

She asked him to bring a bottle of wine, and the two had sex in the Hernandez's bed, he said.

Being in her bed while her husband was unaccounted for made Monahan nervous, he said, and he made up some excuses in his mind in case Mr. Hernandez showed up unexpectedly.

Such excuses probably wouldn't have done much good, Monahan admitted Wednesday under questioning by prosecutors.

Susan Salso, a friend of Mrs. Hernandez, testified she stopped by the Hernandez home the day after the disappearance and saw Monahan's car there. "I thought it was very strange," she said.

Hernandez was generally possessive of his wife and highly inquisitive, Salso said.

For example, when Mrs. Hernandez once wanted to keep her husband from seeing the phone number of a lawyer she planned to call, she asked Salso to keep the number at Salso's house, Salso said.

Given such secretiveness before the disappearance, Assistant State Attorney Donald Scaglione asked Salso, wasn't it odd that Mrs. Hernandez would later be unconcerned about her husband catching her with another man?

"Absolutely," Salso said.

The prosecution is expected to finish its case today or Friday. Then, the defense will make its case. Mrs. Hernandez's lawyer, Arthur Eggers, has said she will testify.