Prosecutor: Husband in rocky marriage beat, strangled wife; defe - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Prosecutor: Husband in rocky marriage beat, strangled wife; defense says victim fell down stairs

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A controlling husband who thought his wife of 16 years was going to leave him for another man beat, kicked and strangled her and told paramedics that she was injured in a fall down a flight of stairs, a prosecutor said Monday.

In her opening statement in David Ditto's murder trial, Deputy District Attorney Claudine Ruiz told a jury that the defendant struck Karina Ditto "over and over," and kicked, stomped and choked her in their Mira Mesa home last March 12 while their two children slept upstairs.

Ruiz said the last two years of the couple's marriage had been like a roller-coaster ride, and Karina Ditto was "ready to get off."

"The defendant told her what to do and when to do it," Ruiz told the jury.

Paramedics and firefighters responded to the defendant's 911 call shortly before 1 a.m. and expected to see a 38-year-old victim injured from a fall, but what they found was very different, the prosecutor said.

Paramedics noted injuries to the victim's right temple and a cut to the back of her head, but there was no active bleeding though the victim was covered in blood, according to the prosecutor.

David Ditto, 44, also had scratches on his face from his wife fighting back, the prosecutor alleged.

A firefighter was concerned about the circumstances under which the woman's body was found and called police, Ruiz said.

"They (the circumstances) just didn't match up with what they (firefighters) were seeing with Karina Ditto's condition," Ruiz told the jury.

The victim suffered a brain injury from lack of oxygen and was taken off

life support two days later.

Nurses looking at Karina Ditto hours before she died on March 14 noticed extensive bruising on her body, according to the prosecutor.

She had bruising under her scalp, jaw, lip, tongue, chin, shoulder, arms, hands, legs and shins, and even had a fractured rib, Ruiz said, adding that a bruise on the leg was consistent with a footprint.

By August 2010, Karina Ditto had decided she was going to leave her husband, and in November, the defendant took out a life insurance policy on his wife in case of accidental death, Ruiz said.

"The bruises on her body tells you this was no accident," the prosecutor told the jury. "This was murder."

But defense attorney Keith Rutman said the couple -- despite earlier problems -- had patched things up and were living a happy life and loved each other.

"She died of a horrible accident," Rutman said in his opening statement. "Falls kill people ... and a fall killed Karina Ditto."

The Dittos were a close-knit family and were the envy of their neighborhood, Rutman said.

Rutman said paramedics first on the scene asked the wrong questions and got the wrong answers.

The defendant had blood on his hands because he was holding his unconscious wife after her fall, the defense attorney said.

The victim flailed her arms after she was knocked out and that's when she scratched her husband's face, Rutman told the jury.

The attorney said Karina Ditto hit her head on the stair banister and was unable to break her fall, causing head and shoulder injuries. The imprint on the victim's leg was not from a shoe and police didn't find a shoe that matched, the defense attorney said.

Karina Ditto had told a co-worker that the "spark" was gone from her marriage, but her husband had agreed to change and he did, Rutman said.

A 21-year-old man who claims he sent the victim a photo of his genitals, and that she sent him a picture of her topless, is a "liar," Rutman told the jury.

Ditto faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

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