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Son testifies in murder trial of Tony Villegas

Caleb Villegas said father believed Melissa Lewis broke up his marriage

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The son of a South Florida man accused of killing an attorney and dumping her body in a canal testified Wednesday in his father's trial.

Caleb Villegas was just 14 years old when Melissa Lewis' body was found in a Plantation canal in 2008.

Tony Villegas, 52, is charged with murder in the death of Lewis, who was a partner in convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein's now-defunct law firm.

Caleb Villegas told the court that his mother was very close with Lewis, and said Lewis spent a lot of time at his home and even went on some family vacations.

However, Villegas said his father disliked Lewis and blamed her for breaking up his marriage.

"At one point he told me that he felt Melissa and my mom were scheming and they were getting a divorce around the same time so they could hang out," Villegas said.

"And did he say it was Melissa who was at fault?" assistant state attorney Shari Tate asked.

"Yes," Villegas said.

Tony Villegas' attorneys questioned the suspect's son during cross examination and painted him as a son who just wanted to stay out of his parents' issues.

"Would you agree that your parents were not getting along in their marriage a long time before Melissa ever became involved in your family?" Tony Villegas' attorney asked.

"Yes," Caleb Villegas said.

Tony Villegas' ex-wife, Debra Coffey, testified Tuesday and said that she became very close with Lewis after the two began working together at the law firm. She said she and Lewis were fearful of Villegas because he had made threats against both of them.

Authorities said Lewis died of strangulation.


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Jenise Fernandez joined the Local 10 News team in November 2014. She is thrilled to be back home reporting for the station she grew up watching. Jenise, who is from Miami and graduated from Florida International University, also interned at Local 10 while she was in college.