Fifth Man Pleads Guilty In SoBe Murder Case
South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The fifth man accused in the 2002 slaying of a South Florida teen has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
The Miami Herald reports Hector Caraballo entered his plea Friday. He also agreed to a 50-year prison term.
Caraballo, 40, is the last defendant to be convicted in the 2002 slaying of Ana Maria Angel, a murder that shocked South Florida in April 2002.
Originally charged with first-degree murder, Caraballo pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a slew of other felonies.
Five Orlando men kidnapped Angel, 18, and her boyfriend, Nelson Portobanco, then 17, as they finished a stroll on the South Beach sand.
After robbing them at gunpoint, the men drove north, gang-raping Angel inside a truck. The men slashed Portobanco’s throat, leaving him for dead on the side of Interstate 95 in Broward County. He survived and alerted police.
With a motion of a slash across the throat, prosecutors say, Caraballo ordered the death of Angel. On the side of I-95 in Palm Beach County, co-defendant Joel Lebron marched Angel down an embankment, shooting her in the head as she fell to her knees, begging for her life.
Miami-Dade prosecutor Laura Adams told the court that the state agreed to a plea because the evidence against Caraballo was not as strong as in the cases of the other men.
Although he was believed to have participated in the rape, his DNA was not found on the victim’s body. Also, he did not confess to the rape. The plea was agreed to by Angel’s mother and Portobanco – both of whom were in court Friday.
“They have endured four trials already. To get this resolved is important for them and the state,” Adams told Circuit Judge William Thomas.
In all, four of the men went to trial and lost.
A Miami-Dade jury last month convicted Lebron of first-degree murder, sexual battery and other felonies. Jurors, by a 9-3 vote, recommended the death penalty and Lebron is expected to be sentenced in December.
Jesus Roman was not eligible for the death penalty because he was under 18 at the time of the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Cesar Mena is also serving life in prison.
Victor Caraballo, Hector Caraballo’s bother, was sentenced to death but the punishment was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court. He is awaiting a new sentencing hearing, and could again receive the death penalty.
Margarita Osorio, Angel’s mother, said after Friday’s hearing that she was relieved.
“So many emotions, but there is certain closure,” Osorio said. “I think this will give us some rest.”
Said Portobanco: “It’s a big step forward. We’re not done yet, but it gives us a chance to start the healing process and put this behind us.”