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SoBe Gang Rape, Murder Trial Underway

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Ana Maria Angel (Source: CBS4/File)

Ana Maria Angel (Source: CBS4/File)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Opening statements got underway Wednesday in the trial of Joel Lebron, who is accused in the rape and murder a South Miami teen in 2002 after he and four others kidnapped her and boyfriend from a South Beach street.

According to prosecutors Joel Lebron shot and killed 18-year old Ana Maria Angel after she was gang raped while her boyfriend Nelson Portobanco watched.

During her opening statement described how Lebron and the others violated Angel.

“Ana Maria was sexually assaulted in just about any way that a woman’s body can be violated,” said Assistant State Attorney Laura Adams in her opening statement.

On April 27th, 2002 Angel and Portobanco went to dinner and then decided to go for a walk on Miami Beach. As they walked back to their car, they were abducted at gun point and forced into the rear cab of a Ford F-150 truck.

Inside the truck, according to investigators, were Lebron, Victor Caraballo, Hector Caraballo, Cesar Mena and Jesus Torres Roman. The group had driven down from Orlando.

Once inside the cab, the men robbed Angel of her cell phone and wallet. They then used her ATM card to buy gas for the truck.

In the ordeal that ensued, Portobanco stold the jury that Ana Maria begged for mercy.

“She was scared,” he said. “She was terrified.”

Mena, who was the driver, then got on I-95 and headed north. At one point, Portobanco ordered to grope and kiss Angel. When he refused, investigators said he was pushed to the floor and made to watch as Hector Caraballo, Lebron, and Roman gang raped Angel. Mena then pulled over and Portobanco was forced out of the truck.

“He was stabbed and slashed over and over,” said Adams, “His throat was cut.”

Left for dead, miraculously he survived.   After flagging down a driver, who stopped to help, Portobanco alerted the police about what was happening.

The men continued to head north, but in Palm Beach County they stopped again. They led Angel to some bushes near the side of the highway and forced her to her knees.  Adams said Lebron stood behind her and aimed a pistol at the back of her.  He pulled the trigger and the gun misfire.

“Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me,” Adams quoted Angel as she begged for her life.

A second pull of the trigger then ended her life.

“She died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head,” Adams told the jury who added that Angel’s hands were clasped together as if in prayer.

The group then returned to Orlando.

Police were able to track them down by using Portobanco and Angel’s cell phones which they had allegedly stolen. When they traced a call made on one of the phones, the phone it came back to an apartment building in Orlando.

Inside the apartment they found Victor Caraballo who reportedly confessed and told investigators the names of the four other men involved.

Victor Caraballo was convicted seven counts which included kidnapping, rape and murder and was sentenced to death. He appealed and the Florida Supreme Court vacated the death sentence and sent the case back to trial court for a new penalty phase.

Codefendant Mena was convicted of six of the seven counts and sentenced to life in prison.

Codefendant Roman was convicted of all seven counts and sentenced to life in prison.

Hector Caraballo is still awaiting trial.

Portobanco, now 28-years old, went on to earn a degree in finance from Florida International University.  He has not married.

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