WEST PALM BEACH — Mike Cadet said he closed his eyes and kept pulling the trigger until he got out of the Dodge Ram truck where he was sitting with Michael Sears in August 2015. He said he shot Sears in self-defense after he alleged Sears got angry when Cadet asked for the $10 owed to him. Authorities said it was Cadet who was upset over the debt and shot Sears.
During testimony Wednesday at his first-degree murder trial, Cadet said after he went back inside his home and looked out the kitchen window to see Sears’ truck hadn’t left, he knew Sears was dead.
“What are you thinking at this point in time?” Assistant Public Defender Harris Printz said.
“I just killed somebody,” Cadet replied.
Cadet, 20, took the stand late Wednesday afternoon in his trial for the Aug. 28, 2015, fatal shooting of Sears. After the shooting, Cadet, then 17, and his then-girlfriend, Kaitlyn Tucciarone, stole Sears’ jewelry and used his truck to transport and then dump his body in a retention pond close to Belvedere and Jog roads in suburban West Palm Beach, according to law enforcement.
Sears’ truck was found by his wife parked at a community pool nearby. She told authorities there was blood inside the vehicle. The 31-year-old father’s body was found floating in the pond on Sept. 4, 2015. After Cadet was arrested, authorities said he shot Sears after an alleged argument over a $10 marijuana debt.
Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater on Wednesday asked Cadet if he was lying to the jury about what happened like he had lied to law enforcement about his involvement in Sears’ death. Cadet said he did lie to detectives but he wasn’t lying now.
Slater asked Cadet if he was upset that Sears wasn’t paying up, so he decided to shoot him. Cadet said no. Slater asked if Cadet shot Sears. Cadet said yes.
“And you shot him and you shot him and you shot him and you shot him, isn’t that right, Mr. Cadet?” Slater said, raising his voice each time he repeated the words.
“Yes, sir,” Cadet replied, barely louder than a whisper.
Printz asked Cadet if he had planned to kill Sears that day, and he said no. Cadet explained that when he got into Sears’ truck and asked for the money, Sears got angry, which he said was unlike him.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do, and I’ve never seen him like this before,” Cadet said.
Cadet said he watched Sears reach for something in the vehicle, so he pulled the gun out of his hooded sweatshirt and shot him.
“I closed my eyes and started shooting and tried to get out of the car,” Cadet said.
Printz asked the 20-year-old if he put anything over Sears’ body, and he said he had put something over his head.
“I didn’t want anybody to see what I had done,” Cadet said.
Cadet was the defense’s only witness.
Over the course of four days of trial, the prosecution brought several witnesses to the stand, including Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office detectives, crime-scene investigators and a medical examiner.
Dr. Reinhard Motte, a forensic pathologist with the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office, said Sears was shot four times: twice in the head and twice in the torso. He said one of the fatal blows was a shot to the back of his head and the other went through his chest, missing his heart but hitting both lungs. Additionally, Sears was shot in the jaw and the back, Motte pointed out while the prosecution showed photos from Sears’ autopsy.
Both Sears’ wife, Elissa Buttrey, and Cadet’s co-defendant, Tucciarone, took the stand. Buttrey told the jury how her husband never took off his wedding band and what it was like to find his truck with the blood inside after searching for him for hours with a neighbor.
Tucciarone retold how she, unprompted by Cadet, told him where he should dump Sears’ body and removed Sears’ jewelry before they pushed him in the pond and attempted to clean the truck.
Tucciarone, who is the daughter of a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy, was also arrested on charges of accessory after the fact. During trial, it became public that she took a plea deal in the case and as part of the deal had to testify against Cadet.