Edwin Carrero II used a rug and other objects to cover a trap door over the basement where he hid the dead body of Alicia Schmidt before he stole her car, money and went on a gambling spree, he allegedly told police during an interrogation in February.
Those and other details were recounted by police who testified at Carrero's preliminary hearing before District Court Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr. in Lower Pottsgrove Township on Monday.
Members of Schmidt's and Carrero's families sat on opposite sides of the courtroom and were teary-eyed during the hearing, which included graphic description of Schmidt's death.
Carrero, 32, on Feb. 2, allegedly strangled Schmidt, 31, to death in a house they shared at 424 Cherry St. in Pottstown.
On Monday, Pottstown Police Sgt. Michael Ponto testified he and other police officers found Schmidt dead in her home on Feb. 2.
"I responded ... to check the well-being of Alicia Schmidt," he said and added police were called by Carrero's ex-wife who told them Carrero said he might have killed Schmidt. "We ... discovered that the front door was open."
Ponto said police found two children asleep upstairs and Schmidt's body in the basement of the house.
Police say Carrero killed Schmidt, then headed to Florida. On the way, he used Schmidt's father's bank debit card nearly 30 times, stayed in hotels and went to casinos to gamble and play poker, police said.
On Feb. 7, police in Broward County, Florida found Carrero in Schmidt's car at a casino parking lot and apprehended him.
During Monday's hearing, Montgomery County homicide detective Todd Richard said he interviewed Carrero soon after he was picked up in Florida.
Carrero told Richard he and Schmidt argued and "I choked her with my hands ... in our bedroom on the second floor," Richard said. "I realized that she wasn't breathing anymore."
During the interrogation, Carrero said after he killed Schmidt, he left her body in the upstairs bedroom for about 20 minutes, then dragged her downstairs, pushed her down basement steps, closed and covered the basement trap door with a rug and other objects, Richard said.
Carrero also allegedly said he took a video game system before he left the house, drove to Atlantic City, bought a bus ticket to "throw you guys off" and wanted to get to Florida to "blend in."
He also said he stole a Florida license plate from a parked car and installed it on Schmidt's Volkswagon Jetta, Richard said.
Items in the car included the video game system, Schmidt's prescription medication and Carrero's identification that he said he wrapped in foil in case it had a tracking device, Richard said.
Carrero's attorney, Sharon Meisler, argued that Carrero "overreacted" during the argument and did not intend to kill Schmidt.
"Malice is not proven," she said.
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Wallis Brooks, prosecutor for the case, disagreed.
"This was an intentional killing," she said. "He strangled her until she was dead."
The case will proceed to formal arraignment in Norristown on June 6.
Richard said he responded in the past to domestic dispute calls involving Schmidt and Carrero.
Kristine Wickward, a legal advocate and domestic violence counselor at the Women's Center of Montgomery County in Pottstown, said that did not surprise her. Wickward was also at the hearing Monday. She said she hopes people will become more aware of the seriousness of domestic violence.
"It's heartbreaking that something so tragic can happen," she said.