WILKES-BARRE - The murder trial against a Hazleton man accused of fatally shooting his lover's estranged husband got under way with jury selection Monday.
Eleazar Yisrael, 31, of 33 W. 10th St., is accused of fatally shooting Samuel Vacante in the back in his Drums home on Aug. 31, 2015. Prosecutors allege Yisrael, who was romantically involved with Vacante's wife, tried to clean up the crime scene with bleach before loading the body into Vacante's vehicle and then ditching it in the woods in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County.
Vacante, a 52-year-old employee of a plant in the Humboldt Industrial Park, was initially reported missing by his estranged wife, Lisa, who was seeing Yisrael and staying at his home. The romantic relationship began several years ago and led Samuel Vacante to file for a divorce that was not finalized.
Shortly before Vacante went missing, a group text message sent from his phone told about 20 contacts that he was fed up with everything and was leaving, with his estranged wife getting power of attorney to handle his assets, according to previous testimony by his son, Brandon Vacante.
After getting the message, Brandon Vacante tried calling his father and instead got another text saying Samuel Vacante had fallen and hurt his jaw and couldn't talk, according to the testimony.
A few days later, on Sept. 6, 2015, police found Samuel Vacante's decomposed remains off Petrarch Trail in Penn Forest Township. The body was about 120 feet off the road in a Towamensing Trail development and had to be identified by dental records, according to police.
A pillow found wrapped with the body in the woods appeared to have been used to muffle the sound of the gunshot, police said.
The trial was set to begin in August but was delayed on the eve of jury selection after defense attorneys Allyson Kacmarski and Mary V. Deady alleged prosecutors failed to turn over surveillance video showin g Yisrael pumping gas into Vacante's vehicle the night of the slaying until last week when they also submitted a pair of camouflage pants seized from Yisrael's home last September to be tested to determine whose blood was on the upper front pant leg.
The untimely disclosure of the evidence left the defense ill-equipped to properly defend Yisrael and amounted to "prosecutorial misconduct," the alleged.
Prosecutors countered with a filing calling the defense attorneys "ineffective" for failing to inspect the evidence or read reports that were generated months earlier.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough found no evidence of misconduct but granted a continuance after chiding prosecutors for failing to promptly turn over the evidence.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.