FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Coral Springs man accused of killing his wife was on trial after he was accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill witnesses in his case.
Munwar Toha, 65, is charged with four counts of solicitation to commit murder.
Toha shook his head as prosecutors presented evidence to jurors on Wednesday, including an audio recording of Toha talking to a detective who he thought was a hit man.
Detective: "Have you made up your mind up?"
Detective: "What do you want to do?
Caller: "(Unintelligible) for a while you know, disappear for a while."
Detective: "I don't really understand 'for a while' because what am I going to do with them, you know what I mean?"
Caller: "Yeah, it's uh."
Detective: "I mean, permanent or just?"
In March of 2010, Toha made a tearful plea to the public for help finding his wife Surya, who he said never came home after taking their two kids to school days earlier. But a week later, Coral Springs police uncovered surveillance video which, they say, shows Toha in the parking lot of a warehouse in the middle of the night, pulling a bicycle out of the trunk of car and then driving that car into a canal. Police found his wife's body in the submerged vehicle days earlier.
Oscar Izquierdo is the state's star witness in the solicitation case. He's a fellow prisoner who told jurors that Toha asked him to hire a hit man to kill four people who are going to testify against him in his wife's murder. Izquierdo put Toha in touch with an undercover detective who posed as a hit man.
"I asked him if he had any money. He said he didn't have any money," Izquierdo said.
Izquierdo said Toha offered the hit man $800 and some personal belongings.
Caller: "I have two brand new motorcycles in the back of my house. You could have that."
Detectives: "Are they owned by you?"
Caller: "Yes, yes."
But the defense say the whole thing was a set up. Izquierdo, they point out, is a career criminal who's been convicted 44 times. He's also a police informant who has managed to convince several other prisoners to solicit hit men. They also note that his work behind bars as an informant has been rewarded with drastically reduced prison sentences.
"The evidence is gonna show you that nobody was going to get hurt. This was a manufactured crime by a career criminal looking to get a better deal for himself," said defense attorney Martin Fine.
Toha faces up to 30 years in prison if he's convicted on solicitation to commit murder charges. He still faces trial for the murder of his wife.