'Spray Tan' Murder Trial Defendant Adam Kaufman Explains His Defense

Month of courtroom drama ended with outburst from the defendant's mother-in-law.

June 7, 2012, 4:23 AM

June 7, 2012— -- Adam Kaufman, the Florida developer who earlier this week was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2007 death of his wife in an explosive trial that became known as the "spray tan" trial, says he never thought he would be convicted.

"In my heart I didn't," Kaufman said today on "Good Morning America." "You leave it up to 12 good people that have to make a very, very difficult decision. Presented with the evidence in this case, I just didn't feel that they would be able to come back with a guilty verdict."

Kaufman stood accused of strangling his wife Eleonora "Lina" Kaufman to death in their Aventura, Fla., home. The defense maintained throughout the trial that the real estate developer is innocent, arguing that his wife died from a pre-existing heart condition.

The case initially garnered nationwide attention in 2009, when the defense blamed Eleonora's death on a violent, allergic reaction to the spray tan that she'd received the day before she died.

Attorneys said that theory was disproved by science, and the defense was later dropped. Defense attorneys soon instead said she died naturally from an unknown heart condition.

In his first appearance since being declared innocent, Kaufman today explained why his defense team initially presented that case.

"The night before she [Eleonora] passed away she had a spray tan for the first time and we felt that it would be negligent of us not to bring that up," Kaufman said on "GMA." "The problem was that it was never investigated, it was never looked into and we felt that it should have."

"You weren't getting answers from the medical examiner's office. They wouldn't return our phone calls," he said. "You have a 33-year-old woman [who is] healthy, active, in great shape, eats well, doesn't drink and smokes a few cigarettes a month. We were thinking of every possible thing that could have happened."

Kaufman sat stone-faced and silent throughout most of the trial, and didn't take the stand in his defense. He did break down in tears as the court heard the desperate 911 call he made when he found his wife on their bathroom floor five years ago.

"It's something that I don't wish on my worst enemy," Kaufman said on "GMA." "It's something that you don't ever expect you're going to be in a situation like that where you walk in and suddenly find your wife, who's healthy by all means, collapsed, cold, non-responsive."

The explosive trial ended Tuesday with an emotional outburst from the defendant's mother-in-law, who stood by his side throughout the trial and even testified for the defense.

Frida Aizman, Lina Kaufman's mother, was ejected from the courtroom after she had an emotional response to the prosecution's suggestion that she only came to Kaufman's defense in order to maintain her relationship with her grandchildren.

"Do you think for a second she would be seeing her grandchildren, with her husband in Italy and her son in Denmark?" the prosecution asked the jury during closing arguments. "She is alone here. This is her tie, the joy of her life. Do you think she's going to go against him?"

"Are you accusing me of lies?" Aizman responded in the courtroom.

That outburst led to her being escorted from the room -- but after the not guilty verdict was read, she and her son-in-law hugged.

"No matter what, I'm truly blessed to have that," he said of his wife's family's support. "Her family has been extremely supportive throughout this whole thing."

"Everyone that knew our relationship and knew us would never in a million years think that would be possible," Kaufman said of the charges that he strangled his wife.

Aizman's outburst during the final moments of the trial was the last of several volatile moments, which not only included the suggestion of Lina Kaufman's fatal reaction to a spray tan, but accusations of professional incompetence on the part of the medical examiner, and even an in-court comparison to the infamous Casey Anthony murder trial from last summer.

The fireworks-fueled trial soon included hints that Kaufman strangled his wife for lust, and that he began dating just after she died.

"By January, February, [Kaufman and another woman] are having regular sex. He was not exactly devastated by his wife's passing. I mean, the best analogy I can think of is when Casey Anthony is getting a tattoo," prosecutors said in court.

"That was hard to hear," Kaufman said today. "That's just a misstatement of facts. That's not true at all."

"Two months after my wife's passing, it was very difficult for me to leave the house," he explained. "Thankfully I have an identical twin brother who, along with his wife, pushed me to get out and not be such a recluse. They took me to this graduation party and I met someone there on a friendly basis and several months later we kept going out. Nothing nefarious."

Later in the nearly month-long trial, Miami Dade Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce Hyma was under fire from the defense team for taking 18 months before he declared the death of Eleonora Kaufman as "mechanical asphyxia in the matter of homicide".

Hyma said that he had to rule out everything he could think of that could be responsible for Eleonora's death other than a homicide.

"Your motivation is to keep your job now," defense attorney Bill Matthewman said of Hyma, who responded that he did not know his job was on the line.

On Tuesday, the jury delivered the not guilty verdict, citing "the overwhelming evidence and the forensics evidence that was laid out by the prosecution as well as the defense."

Kaufman said his mind was focused as the not guilty verdict was read.

"All I could think about were my two children, my wife," he said. "To be honest I didn't hear anything else until my two lawyers hugged me and then I knew it was over."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events