Some time in between the morning of Oct. 16, 2015 and the evening of Oct. 17 of that year, Jeremy Macauley, the Key Largo charter fishing mate on trial for first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Tavernier couple Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz, got rid of the cell phone he had the night of the Oct. 15, 2015 murders.
Phone records from his provider, AT&T, show he registered a new phone to the same number around 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17, and the last person he contacted from his old phone was his boss, Capt. Rick Rodriguez of the Sea Horse charter boat, in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, AT&T security compliance analyst Steven Carey testified on Wednesday, the second day of the trial.
Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott said that “just after midnight” Oct. 16, 2015, “multiple calls” were made from Macauley’s phone to Rodriguez’s phone number. After that, records show no activity, neither calls nor texts, to or from Macauley’s Samsung phone. His account didn’t become active again until he registered an iPhone to his phone number the following evening, Scott said.
Rodriguez could not be reached by phone or email for comment on Wednesday. He has not been charged with any crime or arrested, and Macauley’s attorney, Ed O’Donnell, Sr., said during opening arguments Tuesday that Rodriguez had nothing to do with the murders or the 12 to 15 kilograms of cocaine prosecutors say are at the heart of the capital crime.
The state’s argument is that Macauley, 34, killed Ortiz around 10:30 p.m. that night to silence him. Ortiz, 30, wanted money and drugs in exchange for not going to police about the cocaine prosecutors say was found at sea and brought back to shore aboard the Sea Horse during the summer before the murders.
Rosado, 26, was killed because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office detectives. She was with Ortiz inside her Cuba Road home when Macauley arrived armed with a .45-caliber pistol, prosecutors say. They were both shot once in the head.
Macauley, both his attorneys and prosecutors say, enlisted the help of several friends, including Ortiz, Enos Mitchel and Adrian Demblans, to help break down the cocaine and sell it on the streets. They could get more money that way rather than selling the whole haul, Mitchell said on the witness stand Wednesday.
Mitchell admitted in court that he knew how to break down the cocaine into ounces. He also said he’d done federal time for similar work in the past, which is why he agreed to help cops and prosecutors when they called him.
Mitchell agreed in February 2016 to cooperate. When asked why by Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes Wednesday, Mitchell replied, “Because I didn’t want anything to do with this case.
“They’d figure I had something to do with this case if I lied.”
The men sold the coke for around $1,400 an ounce. Mitchell and the crew would give Macauley around $800 from each sale and keep the rest, he told Fernandes.
“It was free money for you,” Fernandes asked Mitchell, who replied, “Yes.”
He eventually thought the operation involved too many people and stopped selling for Macauley, he told Fernandes. The more people involved, the more risk someone would start talking, he said.
“I’d already been to federal prison, and I didn’t want to go back there,” Mitchell said.
He said that about four days after the murders, he went to Macauley’s house and Macauley “patted me down” for a wire. Macauley also told him he dropped his phone in the ocean “at work fishing.”
Mitchell was on a group text Macauley sent, which included Demblans, on Oct. 14, detailing Ortiz’s threats to go to the police. Still, he didn’t think Macauley was involved until detectives in February 2016 showed him a pistol they’d fished out of a Key Largo canal. Mitchell recognized the .45-caliber handgun as Macauley’s because of the firearm’s unique wooden grip.
The detectives said they matched the weapon with the bullets that felled Ortiz and Rosado. Mitchell told them he’d seen Macauley with the gun at least four times prior to the murders.
But, O’Donnell argues Macauley sold the pistol to Adrian Demblans weeks before Ortiz and Rosado were shot. O’Donnell’s defense of his client is that Adrian Demblans and his twin brother, Kristian Demblans, both 35, and both convicted felons with drug histories, committed the murders with no involvement from Macauley.
Adrian Demblans pleaded guilty in April of this year to accessory after the fact of a capital felony. He testified that he drove Macauley to and from the murders and helped him get rid of the weapon and Ortiz’s cell phone, which contained threatening texts he made toward Macauley, Demblans, Mitchell and Rodriguez. The texts provide motive for Macauley wanting Ortiz dead.
Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, the same judge presiding over the Macauley trial, sentenced Adrian Demblans to 10 years in prison in April, a stint much lighter than the 30 years he faced if he took his chances with a jury. In exchange, he agreed to testify against Macauley.
O’Donnell said at least two former and current jail inmates will testify during the trial that both Demblans brothers said on separate occasions while in county lockup that they were guilty of killing Ortiz and Rosado.
Adrian Demblans was also a charter boat captain, and records show he obtained his boat, the Reel G, from Macauley’s boss, Rodriguez, in 2013.
Rosado’s children – ages 3,4 and 8 at the time were home when their mom was gunned down. They stayed in the house with the bodies until being found the next day in the front yard by neighbor Travis Kvadus. The oldest child told Kvadus his mother and Ortiz were dead. Kvadus, who lived next door with his parents, asked his mother to take the children while he checked the house. He found the bodies and called the police, his mother, Patricia Kvadus, testified Wednesday.
Travis Kvadus, who knew Macauley, died at the age of 35 in May. No foul play was suspected.
Kvadus installed four security cameras on his house, and one of them was pointed in the direction of Rosado’s home. Poor-quality footage from that camera shows two men arrive in a Toyota RAV 4 during the same night and at the same time Ortiz and Rosado were killed. Prosecutors say the video shows Macauley getting out of the car, go into the house and emerge about five minutes later. But O’Donnell says there’s no way of knowing the identity of the man seen in Rosado’s driveway.
Scott said the footage was recovered from “deleted files,” an opinion shared by an FBI forensic examiner, a City of Miami Police Department detective and a private video technician during separate testimony Wednesday. When it was recovered from the digital video recorder’s hard drive, it had to be pieced back together.
Daniel Doskey, director of video services for the West Palm Beach firm, Legal Graphic Works, who worked on the video, testified that the footage would have been clearer and less disjointed had it not been deleted.
“When something is deleted, all of that was stitched together is lost. It’s gone,” Doskey said. “When you recover it, it’s almost always in bits and pieces that have to be assembled.”
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204