State rests its case in trial of teenager accused of murdering Sanaa Amenhotep in 2021

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 8:08 PM EDT

LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - The state has rested its case against Nazareth “Nicolle” Sanchez-Peralta, accused of kidnapping and murdering Sanaa Amenhotep in 2021.

This comes after five days of testimony, 20 witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence.

Prosecutors argue that Sanchez-Peralta, along with two co-defendants who have both pleaded guilty in the case, lured Amenhotep away from her northeast Columbia home on April 5, 2021, held her in a stolen Toyota Camry, drove her to a wooded area in Leesville, and brutally killed her.

The state used its final witnesses to try to dispute one of the defense’s main arguments: that Sanchez-Peralta is a victim here as well.

She was who was forced and coerced into doing everything by her boyfriend, Nelson, including taking part in the scheme to kidnap Amenhotep.

Prosecutors attempted to do that by introducing threatening Facebook messages and call that Sanchez-Peralta sent him.

The messages were sent on April 17, 2021. Nicolle had told law enforcement that she was being held hostage by Nelson after the murder.

In these messages, Sanchez-Peralta threatens to shoot up Nelson’s home because he was allegedly dating someone else.

The defense said in opening statements that Nelson abused Sanchez-Peralta and failed to protect her.

The state also introduced as evidence a love letter written to Nelson by Sanchez-Peralta that was discovered by Cassandra Odom and another correctional officer in August of 2021, nearly five months after the killing, attempting to show the relationship was consensual.

The defense, on cross-examination of Odom, established that the letter was not dated.

Jurors also heard from investigator Brenda Snelgrove with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department for a second time.

She testified that more than 50 shell casings were recovered from the murder scene, including 10 from a 9-millimeter handgun that has not been recovered.

The state attempted to build a case that Sanchez-Peralta’s lies and inconsistencies caught up with her as more evidence was uncovered by law enforcement.

DNA evidence places her at the wooded scene where Amehotep’s body was discovered, and she admitted her role in the killing to Allon Adams, a friend of Nelson’s.

Closing arguments could be delivered on Tuesday.

Judge Debra McCaslin denied the defense’s motion for a directed verdict. The defense cited insufficient evidence, but McCaslin said there is ample evidence for the jury to decide this case.

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