By Logan Smith

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) — Ibtessim Trabelsi wanted to end her marriage to Todd Anthony Searles.

He apparently ended her life.

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‘Apparently,’ because Searles, the primary suspect in his wife’s death, won’t be standing before a judge.

Searles hung himself in his Arapahoe County jail cell last weekend, four days before a scheduled court date in the murder case.

Todd Anthony Searles (credit: Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office)

In what law enforcement and prosecutors described to CBS4 as a “horrific” incident, ‘Ibty’ Trabelsi, 50, was stabbed to death – between 50 and 100 times, according to a preliminary autopsy report – the evening of June 1.

Searles was standing at the front door of the couple’s apartment in the 7100 block of South Poplar Lane in Centennial when deputies from the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office arrived.

They found Trabelsi on the dining room floor, naked, bleeding and unresponsive. Deputies and paramedics began life-saving efforts immediately, but Trabelsi was pronounced dead at Littleton Adventist Hospital little more than a half hour after she’d been found.

Trabelsi’s young daughter told investigators she was downstairs when her mother yelled for help, according to the arrest affidavit in the case. The marriage was not a happy one, the daughter told investigators, but this was the first time she heard any argument become physical. The daughter texted a friend and left the residence through a basement door.

She returned hours later to a crime scene.

“She believes today was the day her mother was going to tell him that she was divorcing him,” an investigator wrote in the arrest affidavit.

Trabelsi’s family law attorney confirmed to investigators that Trabelsi instructed her to begin divorce proceedings months before the attack. Trabelsi, the attorney told investigators, had several cell phone recordings of arguments between the couple. She only played one for her attorney.

“The tone was extremely mean, condescending, and abusive,” the attorney wrote in an email to investigators. “I asked her if this was common, and she said ‘it’s constant.’ I told her that this was not a livable situation and she needed to get out.”

As deputies placed him in handcuffs, Searles told them Trabelsi had come after him with a knife, saying ‘I love you’ and expressing her wish to save the marriage, while slashing at his stomach.

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Online criminal records suggest Searles had a history of violence: arrests for Disorderly Conduct, Destruction of Property, Disturbing the Peace, several assaults, and a sexual assault on a child case that required he register as a sex offender until 2016.

Arapahoe County authorities are still investigating his death. Ginger Delgado, a spokesperson for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said Friday that Searles was found unresponsive in his cell around midnight Saturday. Deputies performed CPR but medical staff at the jail pronounced him deceased.

A spokesperson from the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office confirmed Searles died from hanging.

Searles was scheduled to appear in Arapahoe County court for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Ibtessim ‘Ibty’ Trabelsi (credit: GoFundMe)

After her death, Trabelsi’s family created to a GoFundMe page to cover funeral expenses and form scholarship funds for her three children. A portion of the money was also raised for SafeHouse Denver and the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.





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Logan Smith