The Florida home shared by Danielle and Michael Redlick resembled “a horror movie” when police officers walked in the morning of January 12, 2019, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Inside, 65-year-old Michael lay dead in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, flanked by blood-soaked towels, a mop, cleaning fluid, and a bucket of pinkish water, said Assistant State Attorney Sean Wiggins. He had been fatally stabilized in the shoulder by his wife of 15 years the night before.
Now, jurors at Danielle Redlick’s trial have been asked to decide: Was the stabbing of Michael Redlick—a former NBA executive turned university employee—an act of murder or self defense?
Lawyers gave their opening statements in the case Thursday morning in Orlando, where the trial is set to play out with a national audience.
While disagreeing on the cause of Michael’s stabbing—Danielle has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense—both Wiggins and Assistant Public Defender Catherine Conlon admitted the Redlicks’ marriage was a unique one.
That’s because Michael, who is 20 years older than Danielle, was once her stepfather.
Michael dated Danielle’s mother, Kathleen Aquino, for three years and married her, Conlon said, before she died of breast cancer just three months after saying “I do.”
Soon after, Michael asked Danielle, who was 20, to move in with him to help him care for her 16-year-old sister that still lived with him. Danielle didn’t immediately oblige but the two became close, with Michael visiting her at work and the two attending concerts together, Conlon said.
But those days of fun quickly turned sour after the two wedded. Conlon claimed the relationship became authoritative and abusive, deteriorating further after the couple had two babies together.
Michael drank heavily and was particularly aggressive in his later years from testosterone supplements, which he used to aid erectile dysfunction, Conlon said.
This alleged aggression prompted Danielle to file for divorce in 2018, but a judge rejected her request because Michael was not properly served with divorce papers, court records said. Then 44, she stayed with her husband despite “repeated” attacks, Conlon said.
An arrest affidavit for Danielle hints that she may have shown some signs of aggression toward Michael herself, something Wiggins says prosecutors plan to focus on in court.
Before Michael was killed, he joked to a friend that his wife “is crazy but as long as I hide the steak knives everything will be fine,” the document states. That told police that the couple briefly lived in separate houses, but Michael moved back into a $1 million lakefront Winter Park home with his wife about a month before the stabbing.
The confidant said he called Michael that month and jokingly asked if he was still hiding the knives. “Oh yeah,” Michael replied, according to the friend.
Conlon argued Thursday that Michael’s violence the night of the stabbing reached a new level, forcing his client to stab him in the shoulder in a struggle before running away.
“He pushes her down,” Conlon explained. “She goes to her knees. He pulls her up by the hair. He shoves her to the kitchen island. He chokes. He smothers her. She reaches into a drawer; she grabs a knife; she stabs him one time; he is stunned; he releases her; and she runs to the bathroom.”
But prosecutors don’t buy that story—largely because it wasn’t the original explanation given by Danielle. Instead, she originally told a 911 operator she believed her husband had a heart attack. She then claimed that Michael stabilized himself with a knife and bled out while she took cover in a bathroom the entire night.
Conlon says her client now admits she stabbed her husband, but didn’t realize until the next morning that she killed him.
Wiggins said Thursday, however, that it would be impossible for Danielle to be unaware of her husband’s death for 11 hours. He claims that phone activity shows she erased messages she’d exchanged with Michael, and also used her phone to browse a dating app for a future suitor hours before she called police to the home.
“She put herself down in December… that she was looking for a long-term relationship,” Wiggins said. “This is the dating website that that defendant opens while her husband is laid out, dead, on the floor.”
The cleaning supplies spread about the house also indicated Danielle was trying to hide something, Wiggins said. He said the prosecution plans to introduce an expert who will describe how the “scene was obliterated” by Danielle, who also faces a charge of evidence tampering.
“Despite the fact that she didn’t go through the divorce, she was not interested in a life with Mr. Redlick,” Wiggins said. “She wanted to be happy and happiness for Mrs. Redlick was a life beyond Michael.”
The maximum punishment Danielle could face if convicted is life in prison. Tea Orlando Sentinell reports she previously rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty to manslaughter and serve more than 10 years behind bars.