A dramatic moment unfolded inside a Wisconsin courtroom when a father appeared to send a signal warning his teenage daughter to stop talking as she testified against him at his murdertrial.
Accused killer Zachariah Anderson was seen putting his hand to his mouth and clamping his lips shut as he stared at his 15-year-old daughter on the witness stand in Kenosha County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
Mr Anderson, 42, is charged with the brutal murder of Rosalio Gutierrez Jr, who vanished from his own apartment in Wood Creek back in May 2020.
Gutierrez, 40, had been dating Mr Anderson’s former girlfriend Sadie Beacham – with whom the accused killer shares children.
Prosecutors allege that Mr Anderson was jealous of the new relationship and was stalking his love rival.
On the evening of 17 May 2020, he allegedly went to Gutierrez’s apartment and brutally killed him with blunt force.
He then disposed of Gutierrez’s body, prosecutors claim.
Two days later, Ms Beacham reported Gutierrez missing when she grew concerned and visited his home, only to discover the patio door open and blood on the floor, furniture and ceiling.
The victim’s body has never been found but investigators believe he is dead based on the large amount of blood found inside his apartment.
Mr Anderson was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse and stalking.
During his high-profile trial on Wednesday, Mr Anderson’s 15-year-old daughter took the stand to testify for the state about her father’s behaviour in the run-up to Guttierez’s death.
The 15-year-old told jurors that her father had asked her to spy on her mother and record “every single time my mother would get upset,” reported Kenosha News.
Not long before Guttierez’s disappearance, Mr Anderson also allegedly took his daughter with him to spy on the couple and told her about his plans to follow his love rival – who he referred to using a racial slur.
“He said something about showing him who the man was, and I didn’t quite understand, but you kind of caught onto things that my dad was referring to or was implying,” she said.
“My dad said to me, he said ‘I may just watch him or follow him to his house one time just for the fun of it.’ Those were his exact words to me.”
At one point during the teenager’s testimony, Mr Anderson appeared to motion to her from the defence table – with a gesture to his mouth.
Prosecutors accused the defendant of signalling to his daughter as she testified.
Meanwhile, the defence also accused Ms Beacham of using sign language to communicate with her daughter on the stand.
The disturbances came as the daughter’s testimony supported the prosecution’s argument that Mr Anderson was jealous of his former partner’s new relationship.
She testified that he would “frequently” bring up Guttierez when she saw him.
Then on the night of 24 April – less than one month before the killing – she said that her father had driven them both to her mother’s home to spy on Ms Beacham and Gutierrez inside.
Anderson then went through Gutierrez’s truck and took photos of the vehicle’s licence plate and registration, she said.
He then rang the doorbell of the home and fled, she said.
Weeks later on 16 May – one day before Guttierez was last seen alive – Anderson’s daughter described him driving her and her siblings in his work van.
Prosecutors questioned her about the state of the van – including whether or not it had bleach stains and missing carpet that day.
She testified that it did not.
Prosecutors said that Guttierez’s DNA was found inside the van and that there was evidence that the interior had been scrubbed with bleach.
Parts of the interior carpet had also been removed.
Mr Anderson is facing life in prison on the charges.