Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Victor Caraballo, Hector Caraballo, Joel Lebron, Cesar Mena and Jesus Roman

Five men who kidnapped and robbed an 18 year-old couple, raped and killed the girl, tried to stab the guy to death.

Click HERE to read the story from the Miami Herald.

Nelson Portobanco didn't see the men raping his girlfriend, but he heard them take turns with her for 15 or maybe 20 minutes as they sped on Interstate 95 in an extended-cab pickup truck.

Portobanco choked back tears Monday as he described for a Miami-Dade Circuit Court jury what he remembered of that awful night, April 27, 2002. ''She asked them not to. She was crying,'' he said.

Jurors shook their heads, and one seemed close to tears listening to Portobanco struggle to describe what happened to him and what he heard happening to his girlfriend, Ana Maria Angel.

They were both 18 years old, high school seniors, out for a romantic dinner in Miami and a walk on South Beach. When they headed back to his car, five men jumped them, pushing them into the pickup. One had a gun. Another had a knife. They told Portobanco to put his head on his knees. He said he couldn't identify the man on trial, Victor Caraballo. ''I couldn't see any of them,'' he told the jury. He described how he heard them demand Angel's bank card and her PIN and how they used it to get gas and money before they got on I-95. After the prolonged rape, the men pulled over by the side of the highway and pushed Portobanco out, but they weren't done with him.

With seagrape bushes shielding them from passing cars on the highway, they stabbed Portobanco over and over again, 10 or 11 times, he thought. Finally, he decided to play dead so maybe they would stop. They kicked him a few times and stomped on his head, and then they drove away.

Angel was still in the truck.

''I ran towards the highway and I tried to wave somebody down to help me,'' Portobanco said. ``It was hard for me to breathe.'' He had a cut artery and was bleeding from his neck and back.

It didn't take long for someone to stop.

''The first thing I told him was that my girlfriend and I had been kidnapped and they still had her and the truck was up the road,'' he said.

Portobanco was taken to a hospital, where he told police the same story. It sounded too awful to be true. ''I was skeptical at first, but after I heard him, I realized it was very serious,'' said Miami Beach Detective Larry Marrero.

At that point, police began searching for Angel.

Angel's mother, Margarita Osorio, also went to the hospital and spoke with Portobanco.
''He had cuts all over his face and neck. He was extremely nervous, crying,'' she told the jury. "He asked for my forgiveness.'' She said that she and Portobanco's mother each called Angel's cellphone, leaving messages they hoped the kidnappers would hear. ''I said I would fulfill any requirement from them but not to hurt her,'' testified Osorio, who is from MedellĂ­n, Colombia.

At that point, no one knew that Angel was already dead by the side of the highway.

''We know she was forced to get down on her knees and we know that she had her hands clasped like this,'' Assistant State Attorney Laura Adams said, her own hands folded as if in prayer.
Angel was found in that position with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.

Police say they have DNA evidence that ties Caraballo to the crime, and Caraballo has confessed three times. He gave a statement to detectives the day he was arrested in Orlando, the day after the kidnapping, rape and homicide. He also wrote a letter to Assistant State Attorney Abe Laeser explaining that he didn't think he should be charged with rape because he only masturbated on Angel. He said he feared that he might get AIDS if he raped her because his brother had already raped her and he knew his brother had AIDS. Caraballo also gave an interview to a Spanish-language television station, making the same claims.

Investigators say Caraballo was not the ringleader, but he is the first of the five men, all from Orlando, to go on trial. If he is convicted, he is facing the death penalty. His attorney, Gary Rosenberg, gave only a brief opening statement Monday. ''We need to get past the horrible acts that happened to Miss Angel and we need to look at the evidence of who committed these crimes,'' Rosenberg said. His defense: "Victor Caraballo never touched a gun, never had a knife.''

The prosecutors have charged Caraballo under the felony murder statute, which holds everyone who commits a crime together responsible if someone is killed during that crime. The other accused men are Hector Caraballo, Joel Lebron, Cesar Mena and Jesus Roman.


Anonymous said...

I read many articles on this story
Nobody ever includes what these men
did for a living. did any of them have jobs? were they all in the country legally?
Nothing about their past crimes,if any. Whats the deal?
very bad reporting all around.

Anonymous said...

back in colombia, the cops would just have taken these guys in to the woods and shot them..too bad it hapenned here.

Anonymous said...

They are from Puerto Rico so they are not God, why it always have to be the question about legal or illegal? It doesn't matter where they are from, they did a horrible crime and that is what matters. Was Ted Bundy illegal? Some people and their stupid questions

Anonymous said...

I know this guys since they were little kids,, we went to school together and all i can say is; they always was a bunch of crabs, doing all kind of stuff in the neighborhood,, i feel sorry for them, but in this world if u do something not right, them u need to pay for that mistake,,,