Nicole Franco tried to get a 911 operator to send help, but it didn’t arrive in time to save her life.
Instead, the 911 recording played in court Friday captured the 19-year-old aspiring pastry chef’s final moments in a June 3, 2014, knife attack in Oakland Park.
"Someone broke into my house," Franco yelled, giving the address of her Oakland Park apartment complex but not her apartment number.
Then the recording captured the sounds of her sobbing. The operator grew frantic.
"Ma’am, what happened?" the operator asked. "What happened? Talk to me."
The line went silent, except for the dispatcher’s repeated unanswered “hello.”
Franco died while on the phone with 911, prosecutor Maria Schneider said. One of three stab wounds to her chest punctured her heart, and she died quickly, the prosecutor told the jury.
Franco’s accused killer D’Marcus Tucker was only 15 at the time. He lived with his mother in the same apartment complex.
Attorneys made opening statements in the first-degree murder trial Friday at the Broward County Courthouse.
Schneider told jurors despite Tucker’s age, he should pay a price for what he did to Franco, who had moved to South Florida from New Jersey to study culinary arts.
"He had no right to end this girl’s life," Schneider said.
Public Defender David Wheeler told jurors that much of the case is circumstantial, and DNA evidence that will be presented by prosecutors is "a mixture of DNA that gives a partial profile."
Now 18, Tucker wore a red collared shirt and black slacks. He watched the proceedings calmly, occasionally taking sips from a Styrofoam cup.
The stabbing happened just over three years ago.
Franco called 911 at 3:29 a.m. June 3, 2014, to report the burglary at her apartment in the gated Bridgewater Place complex in the 2700 block of Northwest 44th Street.
Authorities accused Tucker of entering Franco’s ground-floor apartment through a sliding glass door. He took a knife from Franco’s kitchen and went into a bedroom, where he stole a wallet and stepped on the woman’s purse, waking her, authorities said.
Deputies searching the complex who didn’t know the precise location of the apartment found Franco’s body at 4:11 a.m., when a K-9 deputy saw the sliding door was ajar.
Evidence will show Tucker’s DNA was found on a slashed comforter that was covering Franco, Schneider said.
A steak knife hidden in a stairwell and discovered five months after the stabbing was linked to Tucker’s DNA, and he admitted to detectives in an interview he stabbed Franco, she told the jury.
Tucker’s mom also documented that her son wasn’t in the apartment during the early morning hours of June 3, and he didn’t come home until 4:05 a.m., Schneider said. Later that morning, Tucker told his mother a girl had died just a few hours after the crime happened, Schneider said.
Tucker’s attorney said in his opening statement his client did not voluntarily confess, and he intends to call an expert on juvenile confession to show that children can be pressured to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
Tucker’s blood and fingerprints weren’t found on the steak knife, the attorney said.
“You have to ask yourself is this a murder weapon or a common steak knife someone left,” Wheeler told the jury.
Franco’s mother, Teri Franco, testified that she bought the comforter as a gift for her daughter and had it sent to Florida. Her daughter didn’t pick it up until May 24, just days from when she was stabbed to death.
“We were best friends,” the mother said. “We did a lot together.”
Testimony will resume Monday.