MONCKS CORNER — A judge declared a mistrial after a jury said it was deadlocked Friday in the murder case of a former Summerville jeweler accused of strangling his wife at their business more than three years ago.
The jury was given the option to convict 48-year-old Michael Colucci of either murder or the lesser count of voluntary manslaughter in the death of his wife, Sara.
After about eight hours of deliberation over two days, jurors Friday afternoon said they could not come to a consensus. Their decision followed eight days of testimony from law enforcement, first-responders, doctors, relatives and neighbors of the Coluccis.
They unanimously cleared Colucci of murder but were not able to reach an agreement about manslaughter, which is the killing of another person without malice, according to defense attorney Andy Savage.
Prosecutors said they will try the case again.
Relatives of Sara Colucci attended every day of the trial. Some left the courtroom in tears.
Sara Colucci, 38, died May 20, 2015, at a Summerville-area building where she and her husband rented space for their gold-buying business, The Gold Standard. Jurors visited the scene of her death, a relatively rare trip outside the courtroom that Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson permitted so they could see the 6-foot chain-link fence at the center of the case.
Prosecutors said Michael Colucci strangled his wife with his hands and then staged the scene to look like a suicide, telling authorities he found her hanging with a garden hose that was looped around the fence support post.
Prosecutors alleged he later told several conflicting stories.
Her body was lying on a concrete slab when first-responders arrived that evening in 2015. A strand of her blond hair was found on the hose where it looped around the fence. One end of the hose was under her body. Her face was blue and she was cold when EMTs got to her several minutes after Michael Colucci called 911.
Sara Colucci died from asphyxia by neck compression, an autopsy revealed, but a forensic pathologist listed her manner of death as “undetermined.”
Ultimately, prosecutors said, it would be up to jurors to decide whether she was murdered.
The Attorney General’s office prosecuted the case relying on circumstantial evidence, opening the trial in the Berkeley County Courthouse by telling jurors their decision would be a matter of “common sense.”
They acknowledged that the investigation, which was initially led by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office and later taken over by the State Law Enforcement Division, was not perfect.
The day of Sara Colucci’s death, the couple stopped at their warehouse on North Main Street so she could use the bathroom. Michael Colucci told authorities he stayed in their car in the driveway, parked about 20 feet from the fence.
Instead of unlocking the gate to the fence, he said, his wife shimmied between a small gap between the fence and the building — which a handyman testified she had done many times in the past.
Savage argued that because she was wearing high heels and had alcohol, cocaine and Xanax in her system, she could have tripped and fallen into the loop of the hose.
Additionally, he said, his client wouldn't have had the wisdom to place a strand of his wife's hair on the top of the hose to stage the scene.
Testimony and text messages portrayed the couple's relationship as hot and cold — Sara Colucci was known to pick fights with her husband and berate him to elicit a reaction. Assistant Attorney General Megan Burchstead argued that's what provoked Michael Colucci to snap and kill his wife in a fit of rage.
“There’s only one explanation for what happened here: Michael Colucci strangled his wife to death,” she said during closing arguments.
Colucci ran Colucci’s Jewelers in Summerville until the business folded in 2016. He is the stepson of 82-year-old Ivo Colucci, a North Charleston jeweler charged with murder for allegedly shooting his wife, Doris, who was Michael Colucci’s mother, in April 2017. That case is pending.
The younger Colucci is free on bail. On Friday, he planned to returned to his home on Edisto Island, where he lives with his daughter from another marriage, Savage said. The attorney said his team plans to "take a deep breath," review the transcripts and then prepare for a second trial.