The boyfriend of a Melbourne mum found with horrific and fatal stab injuries in her city apartment has been found guilty of her murder.
Ellie Price's body was discovered in the bedroom of her South Melbourne home on May 4, 2020 but prosecutors argued Ricardo Barbaro killed her in the early hours of April 29 that year.
Police carried out a welfare check on the 26-year-old mother of one, finding her with plunging stab wounds and a cut to her neck, after she failed to answer calls from family interstate.
Barbaro, who fled and was arrested in NSW, will face a pre-sentence hearing next month before being sentenced by Justice Lex Lasry.
Jurors took just over a day to return the verdict against Barbaro, 36.
His barrister Rishi Nathwani had presented the case as a whodunnit, claiming it was not the boyfriend but instead Price's wealthy benefactor – brothel owner Mark Gray – who had killed her.
Jurors heard Gray paid for Price's apartment, car, clothes and a weekly allowance but before her death she had attempted to extort $100,000 from him under threat of a false rape allegation.
Gray told the Victorian Supreme Court murder trial that he didn't expect anything in exchange for all he gave Price, but that was challenged by Nathwani.
"Imagine getting all that given to you and going to find somebody else," he read from texts Gray sent to Price's sister Danielle after her death.
"At the end of the day she was replacing me with this guy … I was always the bridesmaid and never the bride."
He said it was Gray who had the motive to kill Price, and it was telling that prosecutors had presented no motive for Barbaro.
But prosecutor Damien Hannan pointed to Barbaro's post-offence conduct, including fleeing interstate when Price's death was revealed publicly.
He suggested presenting Gray as an alternative suspect was "ridiculous", and said there was evidence of Barbaro's blood under Price's fingernails and a fingerprint and blood smear on her bedroom mirror.
Price's mother Tracey Gangell and sister Danielle Price, who live in Tasmania, were both in court throughout the trial.
Each gave evidence against Barbaro.
The verdict came in the third trial Barbaro faced.
The first trial was abandoned when Justice Lasry learned a juror had conducted their own research into the case, against his express instructions and the law.
He referred that juror's conduct to the Office of Public Prosecutions.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.