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Trial in deadly teen love triangle opens in Florida

By the CNN Wire Staff
Rachel Wade tears up as she describes the stabbing of a romantic rival she says threatened her.
Rachel Wade tears up as she describes the stabbing of a romantic rival she says threatened her.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rachel Wade is accused of stabbing to death 18-year-old Sarah Ludemann
  • Prosecutors say Wade planned the attack because both women were fighting over the same man
  • The defense says Wade acted in self-defense
  • Wade faces up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder in the case

Clearwater, Florida (CNN) -- Prosecutors in Pinellas County, Florida, on Wednesday sought to convince jurors that a young woman accused of stabbing to death an 18-year-old woman last year did not act in self-defense but intended to attack her because both women were fighting over the same man.

Rachel Wade, 20, is accused of killing Sarah Ludemann in the early hours of April 15, 2009. According to court records, the two women were involved with Joshua Camacho, then 20, and over a period of several months engaged in a series of nasty confrontations over him via MySpace postings, text messages and voicemails.

The situation escalated when the two women confronted one another outside a friend's home. Wade stabbed Ludemann, who was unarmed, twice in the chest, and Ludemann died at the scene.

The defense is arguing that Wade, at 5-foot-4 and 110 pounds, acted in self-defense -- fearing for her safety when she was confronted by Ludemann, 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, and two other women.

But in the opening day of the trial Wednesday, the prosecution sought to portray Wade as the initial aggressor, who waited for Ludemann with a knife and barely gave her time to get out of her vehicle before attacking her.

According to court records, the two women were involved with Joshua Camacho.
According to court records, the two women were involved with Joshua Camacho.

Four witnesses to the night of the confrontation testified before the six-person jury Wednesday: Janet Camacho, the sister of Joshua Camacho and a friend of Ludemann's; Jilica Smith, a friend of Janet Camacho's; Ashley Lovelady, Ludemann's best friend; and Dustin Grimes, a friend of Wade's ex-boyfriend.

Smith and Janet Camacho both testified that while they were driving to a McDonald's with Ludemann in her minivan, they heard their friend on the phone with Wade and said they heard Wade tell her, "I'm going to stab you and your Mexican boyfriend."

Ludemann grew upset, according to the testimony, and learned of Wade's whereabouts when she happened to pass Lovelady on the road on their way to McDonald's. Lovelady told the women that she had seen Wade at her ex-boyfriend Javier Laboy's house, according to Camacho.

Ludemann then rushed over to Laboy's house, where Wade was at her car with a knife nearby, Janet Camacho and Smith testified.

Ludemann pulled her minivan to an abrupt halt, its nose about 5 feet from the front of Wade's Red Saturn, and began to get out of the vehicle, according to testimony.

Video: Rachel Wade threat calls played in court
Video: Murder suspect allowed to wear makeup
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Within a matter of seconds, prosecutors say, Wade grabbed the knife and approached the driver's side of the minivan and attacked Ludemann between the driver's open door and the minivan.

However, Grimes, the final witness of the day and who was standing outside Laboy's house when the stabbing occurred, testified that the three women jumped out of the minivan at the same time and approached Wade. He said the attack occurred between the two cars.

His testimony, given via videotape from his military posting overseas, could be key to the defense as it seeks to build its case around self-defense.

Prosecutors played the 911 call placed on the night of the incident by Smith, who can be heard screaming that "Rachel just ... stabbed her."

Both Smith and Wade wiped away tears as the audio recording was played.

Prosecutors are expected Thursday to play other recordings of threatening voicemail messages left on Ludemann's cell phone by Wade in the eight months before the attack.

In an August 29, 2008, voicemail, Wade can be heard saying "I'm guaranteeing you I'm going to ... murder you," according to testimony at a prior hearing in the case.

The jury will also hear from police officers who responded to the incident, as well as the medical examiner.

Wade, who was 19 at the time of the killing, faces life in prison -- a minimum of 20 and a half years -- if convicted of second-degree murder in the case.

In Session's Beth Karas contributed to this report.

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