Cheryl Wilson-Minelli was a track star in high school and college, a regular competitor on the television program American Gladiators under the stage name Jasmine, then a personal trainer and a youth sports coach and Bible studies teacher.
Her husband, Juan Ernesto “Marty” Minelli, was a former professional boxer with a hair-trigger temper.
On the night of March 3, 1997, Wilson-Minelli suffered a deadly attack by her husband at their home near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although Wilson-Minelli was the 1993 American Gladiators season champion and in top physical condition, she was no match for her taller and heavier husband.
Four different knives
He used at least four different knives to stab her before picking up a hammer and hitting her in the head seven times.
Minelli’s attorney argued that his client killed Cheryl in a jealous rage because he suspected her of having a love affair with another woman. Prosecutors said Minelli’s real motive was that his marriage was crumbling and he wanted to prevent his wife from getting custody of their 3-year-old daughter.
Minelli’s own words came back to haunt him at trial. He said the following in a taped statement to police: “I realized that me being the man, I’m going to get the short end of the stick here. The law’s going to be on her side, and my daughter is going to be taken away from me. I figured if she’s not going to be with me, she’s not going to be with her, either, and I’m going to make sure of that.”
Minelli said he knew what the outcome of the fight would be on that fatal night. Cheryl arrived home two hours later than expected. Marty got physical and decided to kill her. In fact, he told police he had been thinking about killing his wife on and off for about three years.
Look like an accident
In one scenario, he considered using a barbell to kill her while she was training so that it would look like an accident.
At her funeral, attended by 800 mourners, many young people expressed their admiration for Cheryl Wilson-Minelli.
“I’m one of those kids she helped make better,” said one youthful pallbearer. “Now she can touch all the kids in the world like she touched me.”
Marty Minelli was convicted of first-degree murder.