Trial for Cape Coral man accused of murder delayed, request for mistrial denied

Rachel Heimann Mercader
Naples Daily News

Lawyers temporarily delayed the murder trial of a Cape Coral man accused of killing his East Naples fiancee after filing two motions at the eleventh hour. 

Michael Zutten in Collier County Courthouse for the third day of his jury trial on Nov. 17. Zutten faces a charge of second degree murder.

Michael Zutten, 54, faces a second-degree murder charge on suspicion of killing his live-in fiancee, Heather Lee Grimshaw, 45, whose skeletal remains were discovered in August 2015 in a remote location in Picayune State Park in eastern Collier County. 

The motions Wednesday concern evidence and testimony from the medical examiner stating the cause and manner of death was a homicide and expert testimony from the medical examiner and a forensic anthropologist regarding the cause of death, rate of decomposition and the time frame. 

Remains discovered:Human remains found in Picayune Strand

ID sought:CCSO seeking help identifying human remains found in Picayune Strand

The motions argue that because the medical examiner could not say what exactly caused Grimshaw's death,  — whether it was a gunshot wound, a stab wound, strangulation, or blunt force trauma — that presenting the evidence that her death was a confirmed homicide could prejudice the jury.

The Collier County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a homicide in April 2016, and Zutten was arrested in April 2018. Detectives tied Zutten to the crime partly based on statements he made about Grimshaw's disappearance that the evidence obtained during the nearly three-year investigation did not corroborate, according to CCSO. 

Detectives found Zutten had made comments on his public Facebook page referring to murder and the disposal of a body.

The trial began on Monday before Judge Ramiro Manalich, and jury selection wrapped up Tuesday, with all six jurors, and two alternates were sworn in. 

Zutten dressed in a gray polo shirt, khaki pants, and a short, unkempt beard. As his attorney and state prosecutors discussed the motions, he began reading printer paper copies of articles written by the Naples Daily News.

Previously:Jury trial underway for Cape Coral man accused of killing his fiancé

Related:Cape Coral man arrested, suspected of killing East Naples woman in 2015

The main issue before Judge Manalich was how last-minute requests for hearings on the motions related to key evidence and testimony could delay the trial. In addition, depending on the outcome of the motions, both the defense and prosecution may have to significantly alter their strategies.

Zutten's defense attorney suggested that the court could declare a mistrial and begin a new trial in January with new jurors. The state objected.

After a brief recess, the judge decided that there would be no mistrial and granted the motion to hold hearings on Thursday for the two motions, and plan to begin the trial on Friday.

The trial is now expected to last longer than a week.

Contact Rachel at rachel.heimann@naplesnews.com and on Twitter as @racheyy_marie. Support her work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.