MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A man accused in the 2002 kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenager was found guilty on all counts.
Friday afternoon a jury convicted Joel Lebron, 33, of seven charges including first degree murder, sexual battery and other felonies for his part in the kidnappieng and murder of 18-year-old Ana Marie Angel.
Lebron could face the death penalty now that he’s been found guilty.
“It is justice,” said Ana Maria’s mother, Margarita Osorio.
“Ten years in the making and I’m so ecstatic,” said Osorio’s friend Gloria Montoya, adding, “Thank God, Thank God.”
The jury received the case Friday afternoon and began to deliberate the fate of Joel Lebron around 2:41 and returned a verdict at 3:54 p.m.
Lebron, 33, was one of five men accused of kidnapping, gang raping, and then killing Ana Maria Angel execution-style and attempting to murder her boyfriend Nelson Portobanco in 2002 off a South Beach street. Prosecutors told jurors Lebron pulled the trigger. Osorio said through a translator, “for me he was the ringleader in the group he was the one who fired and the one who did the most harm to Ana Maria.”
Portobanco testified earlier in the trial but did not come to court for the verdict. His mother, Maria Portobanco explained, “it would be difficult for him to be here he went through all this and to have to relive all this pain he couldn’t stand it,”
Earlier Friday, closing arguments saw prosecutors pull the trigger on the weapon they said Lebron used to finish off Angel the night she was murdered.
Assistant state attorney Reid Rubin told jurors how two high school sweethearts, Ana Maria Angel and Nelson Portobanco, “walked on the beach, shared a kiss, the moon was full” when they were set upon by Joel Lebron who held a gun on them ordering them into a truck with four other men.
Rubin went on to describe how the young couple was robbed, Ana Maria gang raped and show execution style by Lebron who allegedly gave a detailed description to police.
Portobanco was attacked and left for dead, but survived.
“They tried to murder him, they beat him, they stab him, they tried to slit his throat,” Rubin told jurors. “They wanted it all. They wanted their money, they wanted her body, they wanted their lives.”
Rubin described how Lebron confessed to leading Ana Maria to bushes beside I-95 and forcing her to kneel.
“Por favor, please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me!” the prosecutor quoted Ana Maria as pleading as LeBron stood over her with a gun.
Rubin pulled the trigger on the .38 caliber revolver, causing a loud click to reverberate through the courtroom, and some spectators and jurors to jump.
Rubin also reminded jurors that Lebron’s semen was recovered from Ana Maria’s body and her boyfriend’s blood was found on the defendant’s shoes.
Defense attorney Jeff Fink attacked the validity of the alleged, detailed confession Lebron gave police. It was not tape recorded because of a technical failure, according to police.
Fink called Lebron’s statement a “choreographed confession.”
The defense attorney said of the officers rendition of the confession, “Just because he’s wearing a uniform, doesn’t mean you have to believe him. Is it reliable? Is it believable? Does it persuade you?”
On Thursday, Miami-Dade CSI supervisor Jeffrey Johnson testified about DNA and how it is unique to each individual. Johnson testified that semen was found in the truck where Angel was gang raped but he could not say with certainty that any of it was Lebron’s.
However, Johnson also told the jury that semen found on Angel’s body belonged to Lebron beyond a “statistical certainty.” The odds that the semen was not Lebron’s were twelve billion to one – roughly double the world’s population. He said blood on a pair of shoes in a plastic bag where Lebron was arrested came from Nelson Portibanco, Angel’s boyfriend.
Earlier in the week, the jury heard testimony from Medical Examiner Christopher Wilson who described the wounds inflicted on Angel’s body in detail.
Lebron’s first trial ended in a mistrial two weeks ago when the lead detective of the investigation, Larry Marrero, misspoke on the stand and said a co-defendant has already been convicted. It’s a fact that jurors were not supposed to know so the judge said he was forced to declare a mistrial.
On the stand Monday, Marrero testified that the four other men came down from Orlando and abducted the couple after they had taken a midnight stroll on the beach.
“They decided they didn’t have enough money to get in the club, and would commit a robbery together, they were all in on it,” said Marrero.
Marrero said during questioning, Lebron admitted that he ordered Angel and Portobanco into the king cab truck at gunpoint. They then reportedly used the couple’s credit cards to withdraw cash from ATMs.
Prosecutors said the men gang-raped Ana Maria as the truck drove north on I-95. At one point, Lebron and a co-defendant dragged Portobanco from the truck, stabbed him repeatedly, slit his throat and then left him to die on the side of I-95 in Broward County.