- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

READING, Pa. (AP) - A man on trial in the shooting death of his estranged wife almost a decade ago took the stand in a Pennsylvania court and proclaimed his innocence while pointing the finger at another person.

Miguel Torres, 43, wept as he testified Friday in his jury trial on a first-degree murder charge in the September 2005 death of Barbara West-Torres. West-Torres, 32, was ambushed in a Reading parking lot and killed.

Torres testified in Berks County Court that he stashed $38,000 he owed another man in his garage but it was gone when he went to look for it. He said he told the man that his wife was the only person who knew about the money, but he couldn’t get it because she had taken a protection order out against him.

Torres said the man took a gun from him as well as his car and went toward the bank where his wife worked, but then came racing back and told him something had gone wrong and his wife had been shot.

“I was a little shocked,” Torres said. “I said, ‘Oh no,’ and wanted to go see what was wrong with Barb. I didn’t know what he did at that point in time. I just know he said the gun went off.”

Torres said he was afraid of retaliation and fled to the Dominican Republic, where he started a new family, and stayed until 2010, when he left for Italy. He was arrested in March 2013 in Italy and extradited after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Kurland asked why he didn’t give the man $22,000 he had taken from the bank account of his business and why he instead let the other man take a loaded gun and told him where his wife worked.

“That’s all I had left,” Torres said. “I couldn’t let the whole business go bankrupt.”

Kurland also asked about a letter Torres had written two weeks before the slaying in which he referred to his wife in the past tense and divided up all his assets and belongings to his family but excluded her. He said he was only trying “to get her attention” and wanted her to feel sorry for him, but it didn’t work.

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