Jeremy Macauley, on trial for the 2015 murder of Tavernier couple Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz, took the stand in his defense Tuesday afternoon and denied involvement in their shooting deaths or knowing who committed the capital crime.
Macauley also invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination several times when State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutors asked him about the up-to-15 kilos of cocaine that were at the root of the Oct. 15, 2015 slayings.
His attorney, Ed O’Donnell, Sr., asked Macauley, 34, directly if he murdered Rosado, then 26, and Ortiz, 30, and Macauley responded, “No sir, I did not.”
O’Donnell argues the real killers are twin brothers Adrian and Kristian Demblans, 36, who are known Upper Keys drug dealers and convicted felons. Adrian Demblans was charged with accessory after the fact of a capital felony. He’s accused of driving Macauley to and from the the scene of the crime. In April of this year, he agreed to plead guilty, and Monroe Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, the same judge presiding over Macauley’s trial, sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
He was looking at 30 if he fought the case in front of a jury. In exchange for the lighter time, Demblans agreed to testify in open court that Macauley shot Rosado and Ortiz each once in the head because Ortiz sent a wave of texts threatening to turn Macauley and others into the police for dealing cocaine — a large amount police say Macauley found floating offshore the summer before the murders while he worked as a mate on the Sea Horse charter fishing boat.
But Macauley said Tuesday he never left his house that night.
“I did not go with Mr. Demblans. I did not go anywhere that night.”
Sea Horse captain Richard Rodriguez, who did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment, has paid between $25,000 and $30,000 on Macauley’s legal bills and was paying Mansueto’s rent in the months after Macauley was arrested.
Macauley faces separate charges related to the cocaine dealing.
O’Donnell said on day-one of the trial last week that Macauley, 34, sold Adrian Demblans the Colt 1911 .45 caliber pistol that Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime technicians matched up with shell casings lying next to the bodies of Rosado and Ortiz inside Rosado’s Cuba Road house on Oct. 16, 2015, the day after they were killed.
Macauley’s wife, Nicole Mansueto, took the stand earlier in the day Tuesday and insisted her husband never left the house the night of Oct. 15, 2015. She said she was able to piece together a timeline because the day before was her brother’s birthday, which she, their children and Macauley celebrated at her mother’s house. Macauley, Mansueto said, came home at 4:30 p.m. like he did almost every day while working for Rodriguez. But before he did, he dropped off some mahi mahi he caught while working at his mother-in-law’s.
On Oct. 15, the day of the murders, Macauley woke up for work at 5 a.m. Mansueto said he returned home at 4:30 p.m., showered, played with the kids and went to Brittany Lozado’s house, which is also on Norwood Avenue. He went there, Mansueto said, to give Lozado’s husband, David Norman, money because Norman recently lost his job. She said he was only gone for about 15 minutes before coming home, where she said he stayed the rest of the night.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Mansueto said.
She did acknowledge seeing the threatening texts sent by Ortiz and that Macauley eventually responded by text that he would come over to give him the drugs and money he demanded.
Mansueto said she knows Adrian and Kristian Demblans and she said Adrian bought the Colt pistol from her husband around August. Mansueto said she did not want the gun in the house because of the children and because Macauley, a convicted felon, is not legally allowed to have one.
Macauley then bought a gun from Norman because, according to Mansueto, Norman needed the money. But she said she immediately returned the pistol to Norman and let him keep the money Macauley paid him.
“I did not want the money back,” she said. “I just wanted the gun out of my home.”
Mansueto said her mother called her on Oct. 16, 2015 to tell her Rosado and Ortiz were murdered. O’Donnell asked her how Macauley found out about the killings. She responded that she called him and he answered while he was out on the Sea Horse around 3 p.m.
“He said, ‘are you serious?’” He didn’t believe me,” Mansueto said.
But according to records from Macauley’s cell phone provider, no calls or texts were made to or from his phone between the early morning hours of Oct. 16 and the evening of Oct. 17, when Macauley bought a new phone. He said he dropped his old one in the ocean while fishing.
Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts questioned Mansueto about Macauley’s relationship with Rodriguez, who has maintained since Macauley and Demblans were charged and arrested in March 2016 that he knew nothing about the cocaine. Mansueto said, “Richard’s like a father to Jeremy.”
But McRoberts read from a statement Mansueto gave police in January 2016. She was one of the first people detectives spoke to during their investigation. In that statement, Mansueto said the relationship between her family and Rodriguez was strictly business. Mansueto said she did not remember saying that.
Mansueto also denied ever knowing the cocaine her husband was dealing was stored in her house.
O’Donnell argues his client is innocent based largely on the supposed sale of the murder weapon a month prior to the slayings.
But testimony Monday from two witnesses place doubt that sale ever happened.
Charter boat captain Christopher Scott, whose vessel is docked at the same Whale Harbor Marina where Macauley worked as a first mate aboard the Sea Horse, testified Monday that Macauley still had the weapon in early October 2015. Scott knows because Macauley asked him if he or anyone he knew would be interested in buying the gun.
Scott, who owns several firearms, declined because he said had just bought another handgun that September.
“I had just spent a bunch of money on a gun,” Scott said. “I’m not that crazy about them.”
But he sent a photo of the pistol to his boss, the owner of Dog House Charters, via text. His boss was interested in the World War II-era firearm, but declined to buy it after he noticed the pistol grip had been changed, Scott said.
Scott was reminded of the gun after reading about Macauley’s and Adrian Demblans’ arrest in March 2016 and that the murder weapon was a Colt .45 1911 like Macauley wanted to sell.
Likewise, testimony given by Allan Snapp and texts containing photos of the gun from his phone shown in court Monday indicate Macauley still had it as of Sept. 27, 2015, 18 days before the murders. The men knew each other from a local boat yard. Macauley sent Snapp a photo of the Colt asking if he wanted to buy it or trade another gun for it — or if he knew someone else interested in the weapon.
Macauley also sent Snapp a photo of a Glock .380 with the message, “Just got this one the other day.”
Snapp’s father had some interest in the weapon, but ultimately turned down the offer.
Snapp said he saw Macauley in the boat yard a few days after the murders and he asked him about the gun — not suspecting Macauley and/or his gun may have been involved in the deaths of Rosado and Ortiz. Macauley said he ended up finding a buyer, according to Snapp.
Like Scott, Snapp became concerned about the gun after reading in the news a few months later that a Colt 1911 was used to shoot Rosado and Ortiz.
“I read it in the paper and I saw it was a Colt 1911,” Snapp said.
Ortiz was one of at least two people Macauley enlisted to help break down the drugs and sell it by the ounce to increase profits. But Ortiz soon began demanding more money, claiming he was already a paid snitch for the police with a “handler” that could be brought down on Macauley and Rick Rodriguez at any moment.
Texts shown in court show Macauley agreed to meet Ortiz at Rosado’s house with some money. One text Macauley sent included a photo of a stack of cash with a $100 bill on top. He said it was half the money the two invested in a fledgling tattoo and smoke shop together. After 10:30 p.m. that night, all activity from Ortiz’s phone ceased. Detectives say that’s when he and Rosado were killed.
Rosado’s three young children were in the house that night, now retired Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Detective Vince Weiner testified Monday.
They were found by next-door neighbor Travis Kvadus the following afternoon physically unharmed. But Weiner said there was evidence the children witnessed the aftermath of their mother’s death, and one of them drew a crayon sketch depicting a gravestone with the words “Mom and Carlos” written on it.
Demblans said last week that he stayed in the Toyota RAV4 he drove to Rosado’s house while Macauley went inside to talk to Ortiz. Demblans said he was legitimately under the impression Macauley was going to give Ortiz at least $1,600 hoping it would stop his blackmail efforts.
But shortly after Macauley entered the house, Demblans said he heard “two distinct shots.” He went inside and saw the couple’s dead bodies. Macauley grabbed an iPhone from Ortiz’s shorts pocket, wanting to get rid of it because it likely contained the threatening texts he sent Macauley, which would show detectives and prosecutors Macauley had motive for wanting Ortiz dead.
Macauley wanted Demblans to help him look for more phones that could contain texts about the threats, but Demblans testified that he told Macauley that they needed to leave the house immediately.
Demblans said he drove Macauley away from the crime scene and traveled down Ocean Bay Drive off mile marker 100 in Key Largo and slowed his vehicle while going over a small bridge so Macauley could throw the gun into the water.
Demblans then turned the car around, heading west on Ocean Bay Drive, slowed down on the bridge again, this time so Macauley could throw Ortiz’s cell phone into the water. The phone bounced off the bridge’s railing and landed on the sidewalk. Macauley had to get out of the car and toss the phone into the canal.
In the end, Macauley was right to suspect he grabbed the wrong phone. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office divers found the Apple iPhone 5 from Ortiz’s pocket near where a snorkeler found the pistol in November 2015, but police and federal agents with the U.S. Secret Service weren’t able to activate the waterlogged smartphone.
The damning text messages, it turned out, were on the Asus Zenfone lying on the couple’s bed, in plain sight.
Also Monday, Suhai Montenegro, one of the two women living at Adrian Demblans’ Atlantic Avenue house back then, testified that the RAV4 was her car. As well as being Demblans’ temporary roommate, she also bought drugs from him. She did not want to let Demblans use the car, but she relented after he agreed to give her around $100 worth of crack at no cost.
Early into the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the murders, Montenegro picked Macauley’s photo out of a page of six mug shots shown to her by detectives as being Demblans’ passenger in her Toyota. Asked by Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes how she was so sure, Montenegro said Macauley stood out to her that night.
“I though he was cute, so I noticed him,” she said.
O’Donnell insinuated she actually saw Kristian Demblans get into the car with Adrian, not Macauley. But she insisted it was Macauley riding shotgun.
“Kristian was not in the car,” she said.