Opening statements begin in trial of man accused in Bonita Springs woman’s murder

Published: July 14, 2021 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: July 14, 2021 6:20 PM EDT

Opening statements began Wednesday morning in the trial of Cristian Dilan, a 23-year-old accused of participating in the death of a Bonita Springs woman in 2017.

Prosecutors say Dilan and two others went to the home of 34-year-old Sarah Nicholson on Squire Lane to beat, stab and rob her. She was found dead Oct. 29, 2017.

A jury was selected Tuesday.

Sarah Nicholson

Prosecutors detailed how Nicholson was found stuffed underneath a mattress with 12 stab wounds after firefighters put out a fire at her home. A Bonita Springs fire paramedic found blood on the walls and floor leading to the room Nicholson was found in.

The home belonged to Nicholson’s parents who live in Arkansas. Authorities found it ransacked with her Mercedes missing from the driveway.

“Nicholson had a lot of stuff,” prosecutors said, including designer purses.

According to the state, the home needed repairs after Hurricane Irma which led Nicholson to make an agreement with a man who would live in the home as long as he made repairs.

“There wasn’t a lot of work being done to fix the home,” which “came to a head the week before Halloween” and the man was told to leave, according to the prosecution.

Dilan and Raymond Gomez were arrested in the case. Authorities have neither announced an arrest for the third man nor said if he is a person of interest in the case.

Dilan knows Gomez, who is the son of a woman that the third man is dating, according to the state.

After Nicholson’s death, authorities found her Mercedes in a wooded area and the key fob in Dilan’s home along with a small Louis Vuitton purse that deputies say belonged to Nicholson.

Attorneys for Dilan say he didn’t know Nicholson or what was going to happen to her, instead putting the responsibility on Gomez and the third man who has yet to be arrested.

Dilan became involved because he was hanging out with Gomez and was asked to help them move.

“I want to be perfectly frank with you; he does not initially tell police everything,” the defense told the jury.

Jurors also heard testimony from Nicholson’s ex-husband and her best friend Jamie Patel, who had a hard time speaking.

The judge got up and grabbed a box of tissues for Patel.

Her ex-husband Zachary Androes told jurors that the work promised to Nicholson in exchange for room and board never materialized.

When Nicholson asked the man to leave, Patel said she remembers it didn’t go well.

“He was yelling at Sarah, slammed the door on his way out, and said he’d be back later for his stuff,” Patel said.

More witnesses are scheduled to speak on Thursday.