SUMMERVILLE — Jurors in Michael Colucci’s murder trial on Tuesday visited the warehouse where authorities allege the former jeweler killed his wife in 2015.
The brief trip focused on jurors seeing the chain-link fence where Michael Colucci told authorities he found 38-year-old Sara Colucci hanging from a garden hose looped several times around the top of a support post. Prosecutors allege that Colucci, 48, strangled his wife and portrayed her death to investigators and some of her loved ones as a suicide or an accident.
The 6-foot fence is visible from the roadside at 2206 N. Main St., where the couple leased part of a white cinder block building for their gold-buying business called The Gold Standard.
Before beginning the sixth day of testimony Tuesday morning, 12 jurors and two alternates, accompanied by bailiffs, boarded a bus at the Berkeley County Courthouse and rode 12 miles to the warehouse. The judge, attorneys, prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies traveled in separate vehicles.
Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson instructed jurors to observe but not attempt any experiments with the fence. They were told they could take notes but were not allowed to discuss the case.
Jury visits to alleged crime scenes are rare but not unheard of. Tuesday’s trip was prompted by Assistant Attorney General Megan Burchstead’s request for jurors to see for themselves the location about which they’ve heard days of nuanced testimony.
Jefferson approved the trip despite an objection from Colucci’s attorney, Andy Savage of Charleston.
“Generally we don’t go to scenes,” Jefferson told the lawyers last week, later saying that she’s signed off on two such visits in her career. “Sometimes it really is necessary ... for the jury to actually see what is being talked about.”
Colucci, owner of the now-closed Colucci’s Jewelers on North Main Street in Summerville, said he and his wife stopped by the warehouse on May 20, 2015, so she could use the bathroom. He told authorities that she got out and he stayed in their car parked in the driveway about 20 feet from the fence.
His wife didn’t open the gate, he said, and instead wriggled through a small space between the fence and the building, which a handyman testified she had done many times in the past. Colucci said he checked on his wife and found her with the hose wrapped around her neck.
Prosecutors have presented a case largely centered on circumstantial evidence.
First responders said Sara Colucci's extremities were cold and her face was blue when they arrived minutes after Michael Colucci called 911 and reported a possible suicide that evening in 2015. They said her discoloration was not consistent with someone who’d been dead only a few minutes.
Her mother, Barbara Moore, testified that Colucci later told several different accounts of what happened.
While an autopsy revealed she died of asphyxia by neck compression, Sara Colucci's manner of death is listed as “undetermined.”
A forensic pathologist testified the woman's injuries were not consistent with a hanging from the hose. An outside medical expert agreed, suggesting that the herringbone necklace she was wearing was used in her strangulation.
Meanwhile, Savage has raised the theory that Sara Colucci, who was intoxicated and wearing high heels at the time, could have accidentally fallen into the loop of the hose while walking through the gap between the fence and the building.
Closing arguments in the case are expected by the end of the week.