PEMBROKE PINES (CBS4) – The surveillance video shows a shadowy figure emerging from a home carrying bags. Another clip of video shows the figure carrying a large item.
Pembroke Pines Police believe the shadowy figure is Gerard Belmonte — the son of Natalie Belmonte. The surveillance video is one piece of evidence that led investigators to accuse him of beating his mother to death in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 17.
The video was shot by cameras mounted on a neighbor’s house. A series of videos that begin on Saturday, July 16 and end the following day were released by the Broward State Attorney’s Office on Thursday.
The videos begin Saturday evening as Belmonte and his mother climb into her red Lexus and head out to a party. The pair stop at a couple of stores on their way.
They arrive back home after 2:40 in the morning.
Hours later, the video shows the outlines of a person placing items in the car and driving off.
On one occasion, the person is seen dragging a large object from the house to the car. According to Belmonte’s arrest affidavit, officers reviewing the tape said the object was consistent in size to that of an adult human being.
One of the videos shows the car arriving at a nearby Publix in the wee hours of the morning. That is the same Publix where evidence from the murder was discovered days later.
The videos shows Natalie Belmonte’s car driving off several times on the morning of the 17th.
Gerard Belmonte told police that after he and his mother arrived home from the party, each went to bed. Belmonte said he slept until at least 11:30 am. He said his mother was gone when he awoke. Her personal items – like her cell phone — remained in the house.
But the surveillance video appears to poke a hole in Belmonte’s story.
And the neighbor whose home is equipped with surveillance cameras said Belmonte approached him later that Sunday. The neighbor told detectives that Gerard Belmonte came over to his home several times that morning asking about his security camera and whether or not it had picked up any clues as to happened to his mother.
The neighbor only gave Belmonte limited information before handing the videos over to the police.
Belmonte’s arrest affidavit states that when Natalie Belmonte’s sister visited the home she found blood smears in the bathroom. Police K9 dogs brought in from Miami-Dade and Miramar police to assist in the search ‘alerted’ to the trunk and bumper of Belmonte’s car as well as the front door of the residence.
Inside the residence, the report said police found blood and signs consistent with a “violent struggle.” According to the report, someone had tried to use cleaning products to get rid of the blood.
A search of the area uncovered bags consistent with those seen in the video in a dumpster behind an animal hospital at 195th Avenue and Sheridan Street. Inside the bags were bloody towels and clothing along with bedding and pillows similar to those in Belmonte’s home.
The report states that the clothes in the bag matched the clothing worn by the person in the video. A preliminary DNA test of the blood on the clothing confirmed that it was Belmonte’s, according to the report.
After three days of searching, police finally found Belmonte’s body in a marshy area just miles from her home; she died of blunt force trauma to her head.
Gerard Belmonte was arrested and accused of stealing from his mother in 2008.
A police affidavit states that he did “knowingly and intentionally remove approximately $20,000 in various jewelry items from the victim’s jewelry box.”
The affidavit also states that Natalie Belmonte “advised she wished to prosecute.”
CBS4 News also learned that Belmonte turned himself and was released from jail three days before Natalie Belmonte disappeared Also released on Thursday were a series of depositions with Gerard Belmonte’s friends and family members — people he had contact with in the days before and after his mother’s murder.
Later on the day of the murder, Gerard Belmonte’s brother and friend told investigators that they spent time with him. Both men said they watched television with Belmonte — including a women’s World Cup soccer match. Both men said Belmonte seemed unfazed by his mother’s not being at home all day.
Both men also told police that Gerard and his mother were very close.
“He loved her,” a friend told a detective during questioning.
In the days after her disappearance, Gerard Belmonte spent a lot of time with police. During one occasion, when officers drove him around Pembroke Pines searching for his mother, the officers took note of his body language and demeanor.
One of the detectives writes in a report that “from the onset of the car ride, (Belmonte) stated something to the effect of, “I hope I can remember but I don’t remember anything.”
The officer noted that as they drove past Publix — the store where evidence from the murder was collected from a dumpster — “(Belmonte’s) body language again appeared uneasy.”
The officer wrote that Belmonte lowered his head, closed his eyes and said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t remember.’”
The court documents reveal that Belmonte’s friends — and even the police — found Belmonte becoming more emotional as the days of the week of his mother’s disappearance wore on. On several occasions, people remembered seeing Belmonte cry.
The documents also reveal that Pembroke Pines Police officers watched Belmonte during the days and nights until they discovered his mother’s body, including the nights Belmonte stayed at the Grand Palms Hotel.
We also learn that Gerard Belmonte had injuries to his hands, when police searched him. There were cuts and scratches on his hands and bruising on his biceps. Belmonte said he received the injuries while doing gardening the previous week.
On another occasion, police write in their reports about a comment Belmonte made on Tuesday, July 19 — two days after his mother disappeared. A detective writes that Belmonte was becoming concerned about the police presence at his mother’s house and the reports in the media.
“The more I hear the more I think was involved, but I just can’t remember anything,” the detective quotes Belmonte as saying. “I want to but I just can’t.”
In the days after his arrest for murder, Belmonte’s aunt, Michaela Teixeira, visited him in the Broward County Jail. According to a deposition she gave to investigators, Teixeira said she repeatedly questioned Belmonte about Natalie’s murder and whether he did it.
“I asked him, you know to tell me what happened,” Teixeira told investigators. She said that Belmonte responded, “I wish I could tell you Auntie Michaela, but I can’t because (of) my (lawyer.)”
Teixeira told police she asked Belmonte if he remembered what happened during the night of the murder. She said that he nodded his head affirmatively.
Also after Bemonte’s arrest, another detail emerged about Belmonte’s prior stint in jail on a grand theft charge. He had been arrested for stealing from his mother.
A jail deputy told detectives that during Belmonte’s time in jail — prior to the murder — Belmonte “told the other inmates that he was having dreams of killing his mother and was planning on killing her when he was released.”
Gerard Belmonte has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
His lawyer said it’s too early in the case to draw any conclusions from the video.
“The case has to be tried in a courtroom and not the court of public opinion,” Bruce Raticoff said. “It’s a small segment of the case.”