Jury finds Mark Sievers guilty of first-degree murder in his wife’s brutal killing

In only four hours of deliberations, the jury found Mark Sievers guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in his wife’s 2015 brutal killing.

Because Sievers was found guilty of first-degree murder, he now faces the possibility of the death penalty.

Judge Bruce Kyle has asked all members of the jury, prosecutors and defense teams to return to court Tuesday for the penalty phase.

Since Sievers has been found guilty of first-degree murder he now faces the death penalty. The jury must now hear from both sides again and decide whether he should be sentenced life in prison or to death.

There were a lot of people in the courtroom for closing arguments Wednesday, including several family members and friends of Dr. Teresa Sievers, as well as investigators from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office who worked the case.

Scroll down to read more, follow along with our reporters in the courtroom on Twitter and read more about the trial.


WATCH TESTIMONY FROM INSIDE THE COURTROOM

WARNING: This video may include graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers.  NOTE: During a court recess, you will see a state of Florida seal.


State’s closing arguments

Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter began by addressing the jury, “I’m not going to say we’ver reached the end of our journey because we’ve got a long way to go.”

He said that “the evidence has shown that Mark Sievers hired Curtis Wayne Wright, his best friend, to kill his wife, Teresa Sievers.”

Hunter then walked the jury through legal definitions of murder and principal.

“To be a principal the defendant does not even have to be present when the crime is committed. That is a powerful instruction.”

He reminded the jury that Mark was in Connecticut at the time of his wife’s murder, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be charged with first degree, premeditated murder.

The State’s case against Mark rests on this question Hunter posed to the jury: Why would Curtis Wayne Wright drive across the country to kill Teresa Sievers? “Money is a powerful motivator,” said Hunter.

He then argued that Mark was seen on his neighbor’s lanai prior to the murder to determine if his side garage door was visible from that vantage point.

Next, Hunter went through “coded” text messages between Mark and Wright. Investigators say they would text the word “other” to know to use their burner phones.

Hunter says the messages are evidence of both principals of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. “What does that even mean?!” Hunter shouts while reading more text messages. “It means ‘call me on my burner phone.’ That’s what it means.”

Continuing to go through the text and call log between Mark and Wright, Hunter brings up the days leading up to the murder. The logs show plenty of texts and phone calls on June 25 and 26, only one text on the 27th and nothing on the 28th or 29th.

He pointed out that the two talked every day, texting each other “good morning” or chatting about work.

Hunter argues that Mark didn’t call Wright, his best friend, on the day he found out his wife was murdered because they both already knew. “Mr. Sievers knew where Mr. Wright was,” he said.

Speaking of Wright, Hunter said, “He’s a killer. By himself, there’s no reason why any reasonable person should believe a word he says, but he is corroborated by evidence.” He said the cell phone data backs up his testimony of where he was and when.

Next, Hunter walked the jury through evidence and other testimony that also corroborates Wright’s testimony.

He then switched gears to the Sievers’ life insurance policy and Mark’s behavior after his wife was murdered. “How did he forget all the work he and Dr. Sievers did to get life insurance,” he asked.

Noting Mark’s behavior, he said, “From day one, Mr. Sievers was concerned he was going to be arrested. Why would this husband and father who was out of town when his wife was killed be so concerned?”

He reminded jurors of how he acted after the murder. When Mark was first told something horrible had happened, the State told jurors he didn’t ask how badly she was hurt or if Teresa was going to the hospital. “He didn’t ask because he knew,” said Hunter.

Next Hunter pointed out an inconsistency from Wright’s testimony. He claimed Jimmy Rodgers joked about killing Teresa with the claw of a hammer. Other testimony disproves that. Hunter asked the jurors, “Does it matter, in the whole big scheme, whether or not she was hit with the claw?”

Hunter says the puzzle pieces of this case are: Sievers going to a neighbor’s home, text messages between him and Wayne Wright, the burner phone locations, Wright’s testimony, Mark’s behavior and insurance policies.

Hunter begins to wrap up his closing arguments saying, “Why would Mr. Wright act on his own with Jimmy Rodgers to do this? Why is Dr. Sievers dead?”

With that, the State finished its closing arguments. The jury took a short break before hearing from the defense.


Defense’s closing arguments

Off the bat, Mark’s attorney, Michael Mummert, began by giving answers to some of the questions the State posed. How did Wright know the Sievers’ alarm code? He’d stayed there before. How did he know Teresa was out of town? He was already coming down to Florida for work.

“Two men, two hammers. There is zero forensic evidence of a second hammer,” said Mummert.

He then brought up the State’s comment to jurors saying “what does it matter” if Teresa was killed with a claw hammer or not. Wright testified she was, but other testimony disproved that. Mummert argued to jurors that you don’t get to “cherry-pick” what you believe.

Mummert then addressed the jury about testimony that Mark was concerned about being arrested after his wife’s murder. “Each and every one of us knows what it feels like to be accused of something,” said Mummert.

He then went through some of the witnesses, trying to point out their inconsistencies, specifically shining a light, again, on Angie Wright. He reminded the jury that she also had a burner phone and, at one point, tampered with witnesses.

Detectives “excluded Angie Wright as a witness because she wasn’t in Florida at the time of the murder. Just like Mr. Sievers.”

Mummert next pointed out, other than Wright saying Teresa planned to leave Mark, we heard no testimony about infidelity, financial issues or marital turmoil. Not from her sister or friends. This is a major argument for the defense: Why was Teresa Sievers murdered?

The defense moves on to evidence collected inside of the Sievers’ home. He said there was blood on the fridge, “but where was the blood on the covered overalls?”

Mummert said Van Waus, one of the LCSO crime scene technicians, did an excellent job of collecting evidence, but that it doesn’t link Mark to anything.

The defense next moved into talking about the life insurance policies of the Sievers. This is part of the murder motive and Wright testified he would be paid through Mark with life insurance money.

“Having a life insurance policy does not mean you are guilty of anything,” said Mummert. He pointed out to the jury that Mark also had a $2.5 million life insurance policy, just like Teresa.

The defense then moved on to details about the murder, reminding the jury of Wright’s testimony that he hit Teresa three times with a hammer and Rodgers was swinging the hammer “wildly.”

At this point, Teresa’s sister stood up and walked out of the courtroom.

“Without Mr. Wright, there is no case,” said Mummert. “He is the only witness who gave any evidence of a conspiracy.” With this, the defense is trying to poke holes in the State’s key testimony by reminding jurors that Wright never took a polygraph to prove what he said was true.

Speaking about the crime scene, Mummert says, “Those photos, they’re hard to look at because that crime scene is anger, and it’s violent, and it’s hate and it’s rage. It is not murder for money.”

Mummert then says, “We’re no closer to answering the question why than we were when this trial started.” He said Wright is still the only person who took the stand and said Mark did it. “The State made a deal with the devil.”

Mummert tells the jury it’s their job to weigh the testimony of each witness, including Wright.

He wraps up closing arguments for the defense saying, “Ultimately, the question you have to ask yourselves is, ‘Do you trust Curtis Wayne Wright…Mark Sievers is innocent.”

State’s rebuttal

“Mark Sievers is the catalyst. Mark Sievers is the cause. Mark Sievers is responsible for Teresa’s brutal murder and he should be held so accountable,” Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Ross said to begin the State’s rebuttal.

Ross argues that the testimony of Wright alone can be sufficient to convict Mark. She also says the evidence of the conspiracy also exists within the phone records.

Ross says that Mummert’s argument that Wright’s testimony was the State’s only evidence of conspiracy is false.

She then walked the jury through a timeline of the “coded” text messages between Mark and Wright.

The State made the argument that a first-degree murder conviction for Mark is common sense, with Ross saying, “There is so much you don’t get to take with you into the jury room, but you do get to take common sense.”


With that, the State wrapped up its rebuttal. Judge Kyle wastes no time and begins reading jury instructions.

The jury can either find Mark guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or not guilty.

The jury was sent out of the courtroom to begin their deliberations in the trial against Mark Sievers around 2:10 p.m. We are now on verdict watch.

As the jury deliberated Wednesday, several concerns came up. After two hours, the jury asked for post-its. Then there was an issue with a man getting video of people leaving the courtroom. He works for a private investigator and Judge Kyle said he felt it was witness intimidation. Both were asked to leave the courtroom.

Around 5 p.m., the jury sent a note to the courtroom wondering how they deal with ending for the day.

Jurors decided they will stay until 6:30 p.m. and return Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. if a verdict is not reached, however, the ultimately reached a verdict at 6:30.

All members of the jury, prosecutors and defense teams will return Tuesday for the penalty phase.

Since Sievers has been found guilty of first-degree murder he now faces the death penalty. The jury must now hear from both sides again and decide whether he should be sentenced life in prison or to death.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

Reporter:Brooke Shafer
Justin Kase
Taylor Petras
Writer:Briana Harvath
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