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A man accused of killing a Florida meteorologist during a botched burglary of the woman’s home more than three and a half years ago was convicted of her muder this week.
Sarah Nicholson, 34, was slain during a robbery of her Bonita Springs residence in October 2017.
Dilan Cristian, 23, was found guilty by a Florida jury on Monday, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com. He was convicted on charges of second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, robbery, burglary, and grand theft of a motor vehicle. The jury delivered the verdict after approximately four hours of deliberation.
Cristian was one of two men arrested in Nicholson’s death. His alleged accomplice, Raymond Gomez, has pleaded not guilty. Gomez's case is still pending, according to court documents. The two men were unwanted in her house and Nicholson had tried to kick them out, officials said.
Nicholson allegedly came home to find three men taking items from her house. She was later stabbed and fatally beaten and her residence was set on fire.
A third man, Davaughn Oquendo, is also suspected to have participated in the burglary but has never been charged, WINK-TV reported.
During the trial, Dilan denied involvement in the deadly home invasion. He told the court he came to Nicholson’s home to help Gomez move and was unaware of a planned robbery; he didn’t know Nicholson, he said, claiming he never had physical contact with her either. The meteorologist's blood was found on his vehicle.
"The defendant participated actively in these crimes and I ask that you find him guilty as charged," Assistant State Attorney Brenda Wade said, according to the News-Press.
Prosecutors presented images to the jury of Nicholson’s home, which they said had been turned upside down. Her injuries, they said, were consistent with someone who had “personal animosity” against her.
A former girlfriend of Gomez also testified that he'd confessed to his involvement in Nicholson's gruesome killing.
“He told me that they burned her and they beat her and he knocked on the door and said he was lost and he needed a phone and when she went to turn around, Oquendo went through the back sliding doors,” Alisia Ramirez told jurors. “She said his name. Since she said his name and knew who it was, that she could tell who it was, they killed her.”
Dilan’s defense team, meanwhile, questioned the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses and argued their client wasn’t responsible for the blood found in his car.
Jay Brizel, one of Dilan’s public defenders, declined to comment on the guilty verdict on Thursday when contacted by Oxygen.com.
Nicholson’s parents didn’t attend Dilan’s trial but indicated that they were pleased to learn of the jury’s decision.
"It left a black hole in our life," her father, David Nicholson, told WINK-TV.
According to her obituary, Nicholson was a “vibrant young woman” and a “certified storm chaser,” who contributed reporting to the Weather Channel during coverage of Hurricane Irma.
A spokesperson for Sunshine Sachs, the Weather Channel’s press relations firm, was unable to immediately confirm Nicholson contributed to the network when contacted on Thursday. The spokesperson said Nicholson wasn’t a direct employee of the company.
Dilan was remanded into custody until his sentencing next month. He faces life in prison.
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