The death penalty case tied to the 2014 brutal beating death of a 35-year-old woman by two men she’d met in drug rehab ended Tuesday with a plea deal that earned one of her alleged killers three life sentences.
Andrew Hoffman, 31, of Lake Worth, pleaded guilty to one count each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery a week before what was supposed to mark the start of jury selection in his trial for the murder of Margeaux Greenwald. Her body was found in a wooded area off Kyoto Gardens drive in Palm Beach Gardens two days after prosecutors say Hoffman and another man, Herbert Savell, dumped her there after beating her to death with a baseball bat.
Savell, who led police to Greenwald’s body after her June 5, 2014 death, said it was Hoffman who used the bat he purchased to beat Greenwald to death after they thought she’d died of a drug overdose but later heard sounds coming from the trunk where they’d placed her body. Savell pleaded guilty to his role in Greenwald’s murder in exchange for a 60-year sentence just before Christmas and was expected to be prosecutors’ main witness against Hoffman.
Had Hoffman gone to trial and been convicted as charged, prosecutors would have asked jurors to sentence him to death. Although no defendant in state court has received a death sentence locally in nearly two decades, defense attorney Jim Eisenberg said Wednesday even the high probability of a life verdict would have forced both Hoffman’s family and Greenwald’s through an emotional trial and penalty phase.
“We certainly never believed what Mr. Savell said,” Eisenberg said, adding of Hoffman: “But with all the evidence, and the DNA evidence that definitely placed him there, he was smart and he knew that the likelihood of a jury coming back with first degree murder was real.”
As part of the sentence, Palm Beach County Judge Barry Cohen sentenced Hoffman to life in prison on the murder charge, and ordered the two life sentences on the kidnapping and robbery charge to run together with one another, but consecutive to the murder sentence.
At the time police apprehended her alleged killers, Greenwald’s relatives said she had struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of sober homes in her native New Jersey and South Florida. But her family said she had appeared to be winning the battle shortly before her death, and her father said that she had also counseled other recovering addicts during her own recovery.
According to arrest reports, Savell said that he, Hoffman and Greenwald were all doing drugs at a home on Boynton Beach when either Savell or both men believed Greenwald had overdosed. They tied her hands and feet with belts and neck ties, placed her body inside of garbage bags and a rain poncho, and placed her in the trunk of her Chrysler 300.
Savell said he initially drove the car, and at some point they heard noises coming from the trunk. The men then stopped at a local Target store, where Savell purchased a bat.
Hoffman told police he thought the plan was to take Greenwald to the hospital, but when he rode to the wooded area in Palm Beach Gardens with Savell, it was Savell who took her out of he car.
“Hoffman said he didn’t see or hear anything after that,” Palm Beach Gardens Police officer Dorian Hawkins wrote in Hoffman’s August 2014 arrest report.
Investigators, however, were able to link Hoffman to Greenwald’s murder after they found her blood on a pair of Hoffman’s white basketball shorts. Foresnic experts said her blood was splattered on the shorts, not transfered, and the person wearing the shorts was likely standing in close proximity to Greenwald when she was beaten to death.