Victor Caraballo was sentenced to death for the murder of Ana Maria Angel, who was killed after she and her boyfriend were abducted from South Beach in 2002
By SUSANNAH A. NESMITH
PATRICK FARRELL/MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Victor Caraballo was sentenced to death Thursday in the 2002 rape and slaying of 18-year-old Ana Maria Angel.
Victor Caraballo got Thursday what he has been asking for -- a death sentence. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas sent Caraballo to Florida's Death Row for the murder of Ana Maria Angel, an 18-year-old kidnapped with her boyfriend in 2002.
Caraballo, 39, is mentally ill and wants to die, his attorney said. ''He didn't want to spend the rest of his life in prison,'' attorney Joel Denaro said after the sentencing hearing. ``He wanted the death penalty.''
Caraballo was the first of five men accused in the brutal attack to go to trial. He confessed that he, his brother and three friends kidnapped and robbed Angel and her boyfriend, Nelson Portobanco. The couple, high-school sweethearts, were snatched from a Miami Beach street corner after they had taken a midnight stroll on the beach.
Caraballo and the other four men drove the couple north on Interstate 95, taking turns raping Angel while Portobanco crouched on the floor of the truck.
The men stabbed Portobanco and left him for dead by the side of the highway in Broward County. Portobanco survived and was able to make his way to the road and flag down a motorist. Though he was critically injured, he immediately alerted authorities that Angel was in danger.
Police mounted a massive search, but they were too late. Angel was found by the roadside in Palm Beach County with a gunshot to the back of the head. Her hands were clasped in prayer.
Although Caraballo did not pull the trigger, he didn't try to stop his friend, Joel Lebron, from killing the woman, according to police.
A Miami-Dade jury found Caraballo guilty of kidnapping, robbery, rape, murder and attempted murder in April. The jury recommended by a vote of 9-3 that he be sentenced to death.
Judge Thomas noted that Caraballo and the others spent 2 ½ hours treating Angel in ``the most demeaning and torturous manner.''
After they left Portobanco for dead, Angel spent the next 15 minutes pleading for her life, convinced they were going to kill her, Thomas noted. ''She was crying, screaming and begging for her life,'' Thomas said. Thomas also found that Caraballo was mentally ill, but ultimately it wasn't enough to spare his life. He also said he believed that Caraballo was abused and neglected as a child. ''However, even this type of abusive and deprived childhood cannot fully excuse or reasonably explain the death of Ana Maria Angel,'' Thomas said.
Angel's mother, Margarita Osorio, said she was satisfied with the sentence and vowed to attend the trials of the other four accused men. ''I have so many different emotions. . . . My daughter continues to be dead,'' she said. ``I will continue to represent her here.''
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle issued a statement hailing the sentence. ''Victor Caraballo and his confederates repeatedly brutalized Ana Maria Angel in unspeakable, inhumane ways and then made her beg for her life before executing her,'' Fernández Rundle said. ``If the death penalty was ever merited, this is the case.''
The case will be automatically appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. The other four are expected to go to trial this year and next year.
Miami Herald staff writer Jack Dolan contributed to this report.