WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — Opening statements are scheduled Monday in the northeastern Pennsylvania trial of a man accused of having killed a man in a robbery prosecutors allege was plotted in collaboration with a teenage girlfriend. Thirty-three-year-old Reynaldo Mercado is charged with criminal homicide, burglary, robbery, conspiracy, theft, arson, abuse of a corpse and evidence-tampering in the September 2018 killing of 58-year-old Fred Boote in the victim’s Wilkes-Barre home.

Luzerne County prosecutors allege that the mother of Mercado’s teenage girlfriend had dated Boote and mother and daughter had lived with him until the previous summer. Prosecutors allege that Mercado and the girl then plotted to rob the victim, who was stabbed more than 50 times during the robbery.

Prosecutors allege that Mercado then tried to burn the body and other evidence and he and the girl fled but were found the next day at the West New York, New Jersey, home of a relative, where the defendant said he hoped to flee to the Dominican Republic.

The defense is contending that Mercado acted in self-defense in the belief that the victim tried to sexually assault the girl, but prosecutors say she has acknowledged that the two concocted the story as they were trying to escape.

The now-16-year-old girl, who told authorities she didn’t know the victim would be hurt, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and faces of a sentence between 20 years and life. She was listed as a potential witness in the trial.

(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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