TAMPA — It has been five years since Trevor Summers was accused of kidnapping and trying to kill his wife. Since then, as he has lingered in the Hillsborough County jail, three attorneys appointed to represent him have asked to leave the case, citing disagreements with their client.
A few months ago, Summers decided he could be his own best advocate. With a trial set to start this week, he readied to defend himself.
On Monday morning, he changed his mind.
Unable to secure a postponement and listening as a judge described limits on his ability to consult with a standby lawyer during his self-representation, Summers decided to let a professional take over.
“I think that’s a very wise decision,” said Judge Christopher Sabella.
Summers, 45, faces a litany of charges, including attempted murder and kidnapping.
Court records describe accusations that for two days in March 2017, Summers held captive his wife, Alisa Summers, tied her to a bed with rope and Christmas lights, and once held a pillow to her face until she briefly lost consciousness. He later took her with him as he drove in an SUV around rural southwest Florida and looked for a marina where he hoped to charter a boat to take them to sea, the records state.
It all happened after Alisa had sought a divorce from her then-husband, with whom she had five children. She had twice sought a protective order against him, once after she accused him of holding her at knifepoint. At the time of the crimes, Trevor Summers was awaiting sentencing for his role in a federal investment fraud scheme in Philadelphia. He still awaits sentencing in that case.
At one point, when he stopped at a Walgreens in south Hillsborough County, Alisa got out of the SUV, her hands still bound, and tried to run away. A bystander saw Trevor Summers place her back in the vehicle and drive off, court records state. Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies began to look for the couple.
They spotted their SUV two days later near a waterfront resort in Ruskin. They followed the vehicle to a home 2 miles away, where Alisa jumped out of the car. Trevor Summers had tried to slash his own neck before his arrest, deputies said. He was jailed after a short hospital stay.
In a search of the car, investigators found what they described as a handwritten confession in which Trevor Summers described cutting his wife’s wrist after she tried to escape.
Also found was a letter he wrote to the couple’s children, according to court records.
“So we have ended it for your sake,” the letter read, according to court records. “We wish you the best in everything you do and will be watching you from heaven.”
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Summers on Monday traded his jail garb for a blue-and-white striped dress shirt with a white collar.
He told Judge Sabella there were items of evidence he had trouble accessing from jail. He said there were expert witnesses he wasn’t able to secure. He asked for another delay.
The judge denied a request, noting the case’s lengthy duration.
“What went on in five years that there was no understanding of what evidence the state had?” the judge asked at one point.
The things Summers complained about were among the many disadvantages of going without an attorney, the judge said. Some of the issues he raised had already been considered and denied by other judges.
After a short discussion of the limitations that Summer would have to consult with an attorney during the trial, he decided it was best to let his standby attorney, Anthony Marchese, take over his defense.
Marchese also asked the judge to delay the trial. He said he was hadn’t had time to examine transcripts of prior testimony and fully scrutinize the state’s evidence.
The lawyer and Summers had previously disagreed about trial strategy, he said.
“I’ve never been so unprepared as I am right now to start picking a jury,” Marchese said.
The judge was unmoved.
State and defense began the process of selecting a jury a little before noon Monday. Opening statements are expected Tuesday. The trial is expected to last through the rest of this week.