MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The jury that convicted Joel Lebron in the 2002 kidnapping, rape, and murder of Ana Maria Angel is now hearing testimony at the sentencing phase of trial.
Lebron, 33, was convicted last week of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, sexual battery and other felonies. He could receive the death penalty.
Defense attorney Ralph Rodriguez told the jurors that Lebron’s father was an alcoholic who abandoned his family. He said he born in a housing project in San Juan, Puerto Rico and at the age of 4, he said, Lebron was in an accident that caused his “head to smash into concrete.”
Rodriguez said it is a factor the jury should consider when it decides whether to give him a life sentence or the death penalty.
Prosecutor Ralph Reid ended his openings with the detail that Lebron told a police detective that he “felt like a king” after he killed Ana Maria. It’s the first time the jury has heard this statement because the judge didn’t allow that specific testimony during the trial.
Ana Maria’s mother, Margarita Osorio was the first witness to take the stand to testify about her daughter’s death. She’s testified in Spanish about her daughter’s interests in high school, how she hoped to be a teacher and enjoyed playing soccer.
Also taking the stand for the state were Dora Duque, a former high school friend of Angel; Jessica Gutierrez, a former co-worker and the Miami Beach detective who recounted how Lebron told him he felt like a king after the murder.
The first person to take the stand for the defense was Lebron’s sister Emilia Roman.
Roman, 49, told the jury this was the first time she’s seen Joel since 2001. She said had to two other brothers who were also incarcerated. She then began to sob on the stand.
The judge called a brief recess so she could compose herself.
Following Roman was a psychologist who told the jury that Lebron had damaged his brain during the accident he suffered when he was 5 years old. The doctor said Lebron was raised in a violent home and was made fun of by classmates who called him “monkey boy” because he had “motor ticks” which caused him to scratch his head and face. He added that because of his childhood, Lebron always felt he was different.
Police said Lebron was one of five Orlando men accused of kidnapping, gang raping, and then killing Ana Maria Angel execution-style and attempting to murder her boyfriend Nelson Portobanco in 2002 after grabbing them from a South Beach street after the couple had just taken a stroll on the beach. The high school sweethearts were ordered into a truck at gunpoint.
The lead investigator Larry Marrerro testified at the trial Lebron admitted that he ordered Angel and Portobanco into the 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. Portobanco managed to survive and testified at the trial.
Lebron eventually shot and killed Angel off I-95 in Palm Beach County as the young woman begged for her life.
The penalty phase is expected to last two days.