- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A day after her former boyfriend took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, the widow of a slain U.S. Air Force service member from Guam sobbed in court during a hearing about evidence to be presented at her own murder-conspiracy death penalty trial.

Michelle Antwanette Paet, 33, sat in shackles Wednesday and dabbed her eyes with a tissue as her defense attorneys and prosecutors haggled about which evidence presented to a jury that found co-defendant Michael Rudolph Rodriguez guilty last week would be brought before a separate jury in Paet’s case.

Rodriguez, 36, took a plea deal Tuesday before jurors who convicted him on Friday of murder, conspiracy and burglary charges began a death penalty phase of his trial. He was also convicted as an ex-felon in possession of a weapon.

Rodriguez gave up his right to appeal and will serve life in prison without parole in the December 2010 slaying of Staff Sgt. Nathan Paet.

Jury selection is due to start Monday for Michelle Paet’s trial in Clark County District Court. She faces murder, conspiracy and weapon charges and the death penalty if she’s convicted. She’s jailed without bail pending trial.

Prosecutors allege that Paet enlisted Rodriguez and two other people to kill her husband in a bid to collect $650,000 in life insurance. Correy Alexis Hawkins and Jessica Ashley Austin are due for trial in coming weeks.

Prosecutors Frank Coumou and Michelle Fleck acknowledged Wednesday that they’re talking with Paet’s defense attorneys, Dayvid Figler and Kristina Wildeveld, about a plea deal that would avoid trial.

Meanwhile, Judge Douglas Herndon whittled a pool of 125 prospective jurors down to 100 based on responses to court questionnaires. He scheduled another hearing with both sides for Thursday.

Michelle Paet’s older sister, Melissa Sagiao, cried later in the court hallway and denied her sister could have orchestrated the slaying of a man she’d been together with since high school. Nathan Paet joined the Air Force in 2002. The couple married in 2006 and had four children.

Sagiao blamed Rodriguez, who is due for sentencing Nov. 17.

“The guy knew what he was doing,” she said. “My sister didn’t know.”

Nathan Paet, 28, was shot five times as he prepared to drive to work at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas. He had served in Iraq and was an F-15 supply technician with the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Police said Michelle Paet told investigators that she and Rodriguez began planning the slaying in October 2010, and they wanted to be together afterward.

Jurors were told that Paet met Rodriguez while they worked at a telemarketing company in Las Vegas and began planning the slaying two months before it happened.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez was armed and ready to ambush Nathan Paet when Michelle Paet alerted him by text message that her husband was leaving the house.

“He’s rushing to get out the door. Lol,” one message said.


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